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Research has shown that, while a substantial proportion of entrepreneurs are women, women-owned ventures are less likely to receive financial investments, government contracts and other requisite resources compared to male-owned ventures. When other dimensions of diversity are considered, research also shows that some racialized, immigrant, indigenous, LGBTQIS2, and entrepreneurs with disabilities are less likely to benefit from business support. Reviews of Canadian entrepreneurship, incubator and innovation centres suggest that men dominate governance, processes, and resources, and that women face systemic barriers, such as unconscious bias, gendered stereotypes and discrimination in building their enterprises. Racialized minorities and other underrepresented 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. The objective of the i2 Action Strategy is to enable diverse and equitable participation of women entrepreneurs within Ontario’s enterprise development ecosystems.


The Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy project aims to:

  1. Identify barriers and build the capacity of mainstream enterprise support organizations to respond to the unique needs of diverse women entrepreneurs
  2. Facilitate collaboration among mainstream and women-focused support organizations
  3. Develop social capital and enhance relationship building among women entrepreneurs through facilitated collaboration and professional mentoring


The Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy will achieve its aims by completing the following activities:

  1. Gender-based analysis (GBA+) of Ontario business support organizations. By analysing diversity across the provincial value chain, we gathered evidence-based insights and baseline data regarding processes, resources, governance, client recruitment, programming, marketing, funding, collaboration/networking, accountability and quality assurance) to inform standard setting and certification criteria and processes.
  2. Identifying good practices that incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion, and enhancing collaboration through regional workshops. These workshops were held in Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto, and North Bay, and brought together entrepreneurial support organizations to share preliminary results of the i2 research and implications for the support organizations. The workshops also helped participants identify action strategies that create inclusive support services for diverse groups of women entrepreneurs.
  3. A provincial conference. To reinforce the hallmarks of gender-sensitive programs, training and curricula, the project will culminate with a provincial conference. The conference will focus on development of social capital and relationship building among ecosystem stakeholders through facilitated collaboration/networking among mainstream and women-focused organizations.

Target audiences

The project targets leaders of entrepreneurship intermediaries (including Executive Directors, CEOs, and Board Chairs) and senior managers of:

  • Angel and VC investment syndicates/networks
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Accelerators, incubators
  • Business support organizations
  • Women’s business owner support organizations
  • Social enterprise organizations
  • Economic development agencies


The Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy is a joint initiative between the Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership and the Ryerson Diversity Institute.

The initiative is led by Barb Orser (Professor, Telfer School of Management),  Catherine Elliott (Professor, Telfer School of Management), and Wendy Cukier (Director, Ryerson Diversity Institute).

Project Funding

The Ontario Inclusive Innovation Action Strategy is funded by The Brookfield Institute of Entrepreneurship + Innovation, Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership and Ryerson Diversity Institute.

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