WE Cities Research Uncovers the Best Cities to Be A Female Entrepreneur

The annual Dell Women Entrepreneur (WE) Cities Index is a global, gender-specific study that looks at a city’s ability to foster the growth of women-owned businesses.

Pamela Pelletier

By: Pamela Pelletier, National Manager, Dell Technologies


Women bring a unique approach to business. They are increasingly using innovative technology to reach customers and utilizing data in unprecedented ways. They also understand that it’s not the technology itself that is important, but what connections, solutions and changes it enables you to make. That’s why Dell Technologies created the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurs Network (DWEN) nearly ten years ago, committing to help accelerate the increasingly powerful role that women play in driving global economic growth. DWEN connects female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more. In today’s world, we need to focus on delivering what entrepreneurs need to thrive and transform insights into actions with policymakers and investors. Since its inception, DWEN has connected thousands of women entrepreneurs in 40+ countries to technology, funding and networks.

This year, Singapore hosted DWEN’s annual Summit during which Dell announced the findings of its annual Women Entrepreneur (WE) Cities Index– the only global, gender-specific study that looks at a city’s ability to foster the growth of women-owned businesses. The Index serves as a diagnostic tool to advise policymakers on how to better support women in business.


The WE Cities Research

Research for WE Cities began during the 2016 DWEN Research Symposium chaired by Dr. David Ricketts from the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. The research symposium brought together 40 global thought leaders, women entrepreneurs, academics and media to develop insights for the model. Key takeaways from the conversations at the Symposium included:

  • Access to capital is still the number one challenge that women entrepreneurs face, although the numbers are showing a slight improvement
  • Creating robust ecosystems with incubators, accelerators and mentors makes a world of difference for entrepreneurs — it’s all about the network
  • Cultural norms and their policy implications places significant limitations on female entrepreneurs
  • Talent, both in terms of the entrepreneurs’ own talent, including education and experience, and having access to a skilled staff also resonated as highly important


Dell invested in this research to better understand the obstacles standing in the way of women not just starting a business, but also growing it. The ranking of 50 global cities was ultimately a measure of a city’s ability to attract and support high-potential women entrepreneurs (HPWE).

Building on 10 years of research on women entrepreneurs, Dell partnered with IHS Markit to research and identify five important characteristics in each city including access to capital, technology, talent, culture and markets. These pillars were organized into two groups — operating environment and enabling environment.

The results showed that the San Francisco Bay Area ranked as the top city largely in part because the Bay Area is one of the best places for women to gain access to capital.
Comparably, in Canada, there were two cities that ranked near the top of the list, Toronto (No. 9) and Vancouver (No. 11).

 Toronto & Vancouver

Toronto and Vancouver were both among the top cities that foster growth and success of women-run businesses, ranking ninth and eleventh, respectively. The research found that this can be attributed to favourable government policies, an increase in funding and access to capital, and a high skill set. In the past, Canadian entrepreneurs frequently had to move to larger hubs, like San Francisco and New York City, for the additional support required to thrive. This is happening less often now as more entrepreneurs are choosing to stay within Canada – and Toronto – having more access to resources and funding than ever before.


Below are key highlights of how Toronto and Vancouver stack up against the other leading cities:

  • Toronto is known for its inclusive and diverse culture, and Vancouver is gaining a similar reputation.
  • Women in Toronto and Vancouver have a high skill set and an abundance of experience, that combined with access to qualified personnel, makes them extremely desirable.
  • An increase in funding and a strong women’s capital base allows Toronto and Vancouver to support women entrepreneurs now more than ever.


Moving Forward with Optimism

As we continue to look for ways to support female entrepreneurs’ growth and encourage them to scale their business, we need to focus on finding new ways to facilitate this growth.

Interestingly, thirty out of 50 cities improved on more than half of their indicators. The most-improved cities represent nearly every region, which indicates how broad-based the improvements have been around the world.


The 2017-2019 WE Cities Index results highlight the successes and challenges that each city faces, and where cities can learn best practices from one another. These key learnings, if supported by local governments, can add up to big changes for women-owned businesses, globally.


Based on the findings and comparison between the 2017-2019 indices, Dell has developed a set of WE Cities Policy Recommendations focused on three areas, including:


  • Access to and the development of financial and human capital.
  • Private and public sectors role in increasing access to local and global networks and markets.
  • How government and business leaders can help women entrepreneurs thrive in the changing face of technology.


These cities should look closely at the data and focus energies on where their scores can be improved. Programs and policies do make a difference and expanding the pool of high potential women entrepreneurs and helping them scale their businesses will yield rich rewards on multiple levels.