More than three times as many Canadian women than men cite work-family balance as their prime motivation to become entrepreneurs. In a recent study published by TD Bank, findings reveal family obligations limited the time and effort women were able to contribute to building their business.

This influences the size and profitability of their company, says Julia Deans, CEO of Futurpreneur, a non-profit organization that finances and mentors young entrepreneurs. “Women tend to think smaller and create one-person businesses."

"They have full control, but the next step is building their company within traditionally male networks. We find they [sometimes] don't know how to leverage them and they don't how to access them," says Deans.

The study highlights lower self-esteem and greater risk aversion as self-imposed barriers that prevent women from pursuing self-employment. These fears often begin at a young age, she says.

"Women have the skills and knowledge, but not the network, role models or mentorship. The routes that men take are typically through networks with other men in their life," Deans says.

Lack of role models

Establishing a professional network with other women is an important way for women to build confidence, says Carolyn Lawrence, president of Women of Influence.

"It isn’t surprising that more women are going into business for themselves because they might not feel like there is a place for them in the existing work culture. Now that more women are engaged in the corporate sector, there’s actually been a shift towards entrepreneurship as a means of making changes to flaws they’ve noticed," says Lawrence.

Women of Influence connects women with mentors, as well as learning and professional opportunities across Canada. Lawrence leads workshops and courses that encourage women to fuse their interests with their career goals, both in small group setting and for major companies.

"I think that it’s really important for women to find their passion and how it relates to their careers, whether corporately or as an entrepreneur. One of the pitfalls that we found for women in business is they don't necessarily want to stay the course if it gets tough. Women can sometimes want to 'quit and stay.'" 

The added pressure of maintaining a work-family balance, along with keeping up with bills and "having it all" pushes women to stay in jobs they aren’t satisfied with, says Lawrence, a phenomena she calls "quit and stay.'

"Tapping your work into your passion and what you want to accomplish is actually the best thing women can do. It speaks to their needs and drive for something more than money or working for a corporate value system that they don’t agree with," says Lawrence.

This lack of engagement in a corporate workplace is a classic motivating factor for male and female entrepreneurs alike; however, TD’s study revealed another distinction between the sexes.

When surveyed, 71 per cent of men compared to 53 per cent of women cited independence and a desire to be one’s own boss as well as earning more money as a motivator.

Statistics Canada reports that there are just under one million female entrepreneurs in Canada, and the rate continues to steadily increase.

Entrepreneurship overall has declined since the 2008 recession, but women now account for one out of every three entrepreneurs in Canada.

From 2001-2011, there was a 23 per cent increase in women opting for self-employment, compared to men.The growing numbers of women choosing to entrepreneurship is a sign of changing times says Deans.

"If we can help women leverage the skills that they have, then we will see the momentum of women in entrepreneurship increase."