Why do we need an Inclusive Innovation i2 Strategy?
While a substantial proportion of entrepreneurs are women, women-owned ventures are less likely to receive financial investments, federal government contracts and other requisite resources compared to male-owned ventures. When other dimensions of diversity are considered, research shows that some racialized, immigrant, Indigenous, LGBTQIS2 and entrepreneurs with disabilities are less likely to benefit from business support.
Reviews of Canadian entrepreneurship, incubators, and innovation centres suggest that governance, processes, and resources are dominated by men, and that women face systemic barriers, such as unconscious bias, gendered stereotypes and discrimination in building their enterprises; racialized minorities and other under- represented groups face additional barriers.
At the same time, female-focused and gender-sensitive interventions are seen to impact the growth performance of women-owned enterprises.
In response, advisory initiatives have called for action to create inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Canada-US Council for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs identified the need for four initiatives, including:
“Challenging accelerators and professional networks to take bold action to attract and develop women-owned businesses, starting with tracking and transparency on the number of women entrepreneurs they help scale up.”
The Women Entrepreneurs Ontario (WEO) Collective (2016) advanced similar recommendations to develop a gender-focused scorecard to report on the engagement of women entrepreneurs within the entrepreneurial ecosystem and to prepare a strategic business plan for enhanced support services for women entrepreneurs.
Structural impediments include systemic biases in funding, client selection criteria, lack of gender- sensitive programming and networks, macho organizational cultures, and limited representation of diverse women on decision-making boards. Such influences impede women business owners, and suggest the need for remedies to address systemic barriers rather than “fixing women entrepreneurs.”
The Canadian Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth (2011) concluded that there is limited collaboration between mainstream and women-focused enterprise support organizations.
Structural impediments include systemic biases in funding, client selection criteria, lack of gender-sensitive programming and inclusive networks, macho sector cultures, and limited representation of diverse women on decision-making boards. Such influences impede women business owners, and suggest the need for remedies to address systemic barriers rather than “fixing women entrepreneurs.”