We are pleased to release 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Ontario Report jointly with The Center for Innovation Studies and Ryerson University. This report is a part of a much larger global effort designed to improve our understanding of entrepreneurship in Ontario and benchmark its progress against other jurisdictions.

Unsurprisingly, for anyone living in one of the province’s many entrepreneurial hubs, the report shows Ontario emerging as a leader in entrepreneurship participation. Ontario rate of entrepreneurship participation went from 11.7% in 2013 to 14.4% in 2015, a significant change compared to similar peer economies such as the US, Australia and Germany who experienced a decline.

Indeed, Ontario and Canada are also the only economies to have experienced any growth in participation rates at all. In 2015, Ontario surpassed prominent peer economies such as the United States, Australia and Germany in entrepreneurship participation.

What’s even more striking is how the province has improved its performance by widening access to entrepreneurial individuals from all parts of the labour market and socioeconomic spectrum.

A Story of Access

Ontario’s path to becoming an international leader in entrepreneurship participation is, amongst other things, a story of access. Demographic groups that commonly have low participation in entrepreneurship, such as women, youths and low-income individuals have performed well in Ontario, compared to other similar economies.

The most notable example of a demographic group with traditionally low entrepreneurship participation are women entrepreneurs. In Ontario, women entrepreneurs outperform all other peer economies by a wide margin. In 2015, the 13.8%, female entrepreneurship participation compares well in Ontario to a male entrepreneurship participation rate of 15.0%. That being said, there is still future work required to encourage more female entrepreneurship and achieve gender parity.

The 2015 GEM Ontario report also demonstrates that female entrepreneurs in Ontario are strongly opportunity-driven, indicating that many are making a conscious choice to be entrepreneurs, taking advantage of compelling business opportunities versus being motivated by necessity. This is not only a positive indication of women entrepreneurs’ aspirations in Ontario, but also a testament to an increasingly progressive and accessible business environment.

Across age groups, participation in entrepreneurship in Ontario is also largely equal. This is in strong contrast to the United States and Australia, where entrepreneurship participation peaks at the ages 35 to 44, and is significantly lower for other age groups. This is particularly significantly for older entrepreneurs between ages 45 to 55, for which Ontario exceeds all peer economies. Similarly, the equitable access to entrepreneurship extends across income groups – low-income individuals do not have lower rates of entrepreneurship in Ontario, which counters the trends of entrepreneurship in similar economies.

What next for Ontario?

The impact of accessibility for entrepreneurship is undeniable. With traditionally underrepresented groups becoming entrepreneurs at increasing rates, the next relevant question is how do we maximize their potential as entrepreneurs?

Undoubtedly, these groups of entrepreneurs bring a wealth of diverse perspectives and capabilities into our entrepreneurship ecosystem. It is now time to take advantage of this encouraging trend, to begin work on cultivating programs to leverage this increasing desire for entrepreneurship, and maximize its impact on our economy.

Interested in learning more about entrepreneurship in Ontario? Read the full 2015 GEM Ontario Report and check out the key findings in our infographic.