Unveiled at the height of the pandemic, a study by the Council on the Status of Women found that women-owned businesses were hit harder by the crisis than businesses overall. For example, 31% of women-owned businesses were unable to maintain operations with physical distancing measures, compared to 20% overall. Today, the situation is slowly recovering, but many challenges remain. Overview.
According to Clémence Joly, policy analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the pandemic has hit women-led SMEs the hardest, in particular “because they are overrepresented in sectors of activity that have suffered the strictest and longest restrictions”. She cites the arts, accommodation and food services as among the sectors that have suffered the steepest revenue declines.
Anie Rouleau, founder of The Unscented Company, is one of the privileged few who have been able to hold their own during the pandemic. Its cleansing and body products being considered essential, the company was running at full speed at the height of the crisis. Boost of fate, the CEO presented her company on the show In the eye of the dragon in April 2020, when all of Quebec needed sanitary products. According to her, her position has allowed her to act as a bulwark for her suppliers, 84% of whom are Quebecers: “We are part of the portion of the chessboard that has had the chance to get through the crisis well. »
Making soap, when everyone had to wash their hands, allowed our 14 employees to keep their jobs and all of our suppliers to stay open.
Anie Rouleau, founder of The Unscented Company
Persistent and disproportionate challenges
The entrepreneur points out, however, that in general, women owners have been hit disproportionately and that the impacts are still present. She is thinking in particular of the field of cosmetics, an industry of non-essential goods largely run by women. Clémence Joly points to the service sector, where 90% of women-owned SMEs are concentrated, according to the CFIB.
Among the ongoing challenges, Mme Joly mentions indebtedness, difficulty generating normal income and problems attracting and retaining employees. It also sounds the alarm about unfavorable tax policies, unique to Quebec, which penalize SMEs in certain sectors, including services.
SMEs that do not pay 5,500 hours do not have access to the reduced tax rate. They are taxed like a multinational, which makes their room for maneuver extremely limited.
Clémence Joly, policy analyst at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business
For the analyst, SMEs must be given the means to recover and operate in a fair environment: “Women all have their place in business. The government must encourage them to maintain their activities. We must support them by adopting political and fiscal reflexes that take into account their reality. »
Anie Rouleau agrees and recalls that supporting women entrepreneurs is not an expense, but an investment: “An economy balanced between men and women is a healthy economy. It is not our duty, it is our interest. »