Unlocking the Potential of Ontario’s Women Entrepreneurs

By Heather Russek
May 17, 2018

By Heather Russek
May 17, 2018

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship is excited to announce the successful projects that will be funded to empower women entrepreneurs.

In July 2017, we announced that our Policy Innovation Platform team would use a design-led approach to create and implement a Call for Proposals to provide better supports for women entrepreneurs in the province of Ontario.

To design the Call for Proposals, the team conducted three steps:

  • Assessing the Evidence Base – We pulled together the latest literature on the barriers facing women entrepreneurs to develop a framework that we could use to discuss those barriers with women entrepreneurs and ecosystem players. For more information, read our Discussion Paper.


  • Design Workshop – We invited women entrepreneurs and ecosystem players to critique and build on our framework for understanding the barriers women entrepreneurs face, and to identify targeted opportunities to overcome those barriers. For more information, read our Design Workshop Summary Report.


  • Stakeholder Interviews – We engaged in numerous conversations to translate what we learned and heard into a Call for Proposals.


The Call for Proposals was launched on December 19, 2017, to fund projects that address challenges that women entrepreneurs face in growing their businesses and increase inclusion in Ontario’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Over the last few months, we have been reviewing the many outstanding proposals we received that responded to the needs identified by the women entrepreneurs and ecosystem players that participated in designing the Call.

The following projects will be funded for the next 14 months:

Ontario Inclusive Innovation (I2) Action Strategy

The Ontario Inclusive Innovation (I2) Action Strategy, led by Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership at the University of Ottawa, will be developing a gender-based certification program and workshops for intermediaries within the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The strategy will also include an industry white paper on the state of women’s enterprise support in Ontario, and a one-day conference to showcase evidence-based practices for empowering women entrepreneurs.

The Accelerator for Women in Entrepreneurship

The Accelerator for Women in Entrepreneurship at the Innovation Factory in Hamilton, Ont., will deliver targeted workshops and events to enable women to grow their businesses, with a particular focus on increasing the level of future representation in advanced manufacturing.

Childcare Support Pilot for Female Entrepreneurs

Childcare Support Pilot for Female Entrepreneurs will provide reliable, flexible and accessible childcare so that female entrepreneurs can attend networking meetings, trade shows, sales meetings, accelerator and last-minute grant application opportunities. This pilot project will provide valuable insight about the role that access to child care plays in the creation and longevity of women led businesses.

The three projects collectively respond to the Call’s objective – to disseminate existing best practices, from within or outside of Ontario, or to adapt existing programs or build on existing evidence to develop new best practices within Ontario’s entrepreneurship communities. The projects will ensure we are taking immediate action to support women entrepreneurs – through regional programming that is based on best practices and services that respond to one of the main barriers to female entrepreneurship – while also continuing research into the systemic and intersectional barriers that impede women’s economic empowerment.

Thank you for everyone who submitted a proposal and demonstrated their commitment to enabling the growth of small and medium-sized women-led businesses in Ontario.

We will be working closely with the funded projects to better understand the impact to women entrepreneurs in Ontario and intend to share our learning at the end of the funding period.

For more information about this project, please contact policyinnovation@ryerson.ca.


For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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