Growth Untapped: Designing Funding with an Equity Lens

This toolkit for funders delivers specific recommendations for reducing bias and increasing capital access for underrepresented entrepreneurs throughout the funding process
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Kim de Laat
Postdoctoral fellow at Brock University, Department of Sociology
Ashleigh Montague

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About this Report

In partnership with the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) is examining the experiences of women founders as they scale their companies. An earlier outcome of this partnership was the publication of Growing Their Own Way: High-growth women entrepreneurs in Canada, which found that despite having achieved a degree of success, high-growth women founders continue to face challenges accessing capital. The major takeaway from recent research on funding women entrepreneurs is that many of the challenges facing women are the result of unconscious bias that pervades boardrooms, pitch competitions, investment meetings, and financial transactions. Most people don’t set out to discriminate; members of the funding ecosystem inherit processes that have bias built into them and get perpetrated implicitly.

It can be challenging to pinpoint and address bias, to shift or redesign processes that have become embedded in organizations, and to change behaviour, which is why we developed this toolkit, Growth Untapped: Designing Funding with an Equity Lens, to make it easier. To create this toolkit, BII+E and WEKH designed and convened a series of action-oriented workshops featuring an advisory panel as well as members of the funding ecosystem to help develop a series of recommendations funders can implement. The toolkit is designed to break down barriers, gaps, and biases in funding processes, and offer recommendations at the macro level (organization and culture changes) and the micro level (immediate impacts).

Read this report to help you:
  1. Understand current experiences of equity-deserving groups accessing funding for growth in their businesses.
  2. Apply actionable solutions at both a general and specific level.
  3. Explore business case studies demonstrating the benefits of implementing an equity lens on funding opportunities in the ecosystem.

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Key recommendations from the report:

The Toolkit offers two sets of recommendations:

  1. General recommendations designed to motivate conversations about what it means to integrate an equity lens into organizational practices and routines. Suggestions include challenging stereotypes by, for example, building awareness of
    women entrepreneurs’ successes and
    promoting them as role models., and increasing representation within organizations.
  2. Specific recommendations offering a suite of advice and questions that those in influential positions, such as limited partners and loan officer managers, can put into practice for themselves and their teams. Suggestions include making intersectional gender equity a part of LP due diligence when deciding to work with VC firms, and providing concierge service during the loan application process at financial institutions.

WEKH Contributors

Dr. Ellen Farrell
WEKH Contributor
Shannon Pestun
WEKH Contributor

Expert Advisors

Lisa Christensen
Senior Advisor, Women Entrepreneurs for BDC’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy in Prairies and BC
Jill Earthy
Principal, Risery Consulting
Vivian Kay
Founder and CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki
Jalisa Luces-Mendes
Founder, Toni Marlow Clothing
Christiane Wherry
VP of Research + Head of Diversity & Inclusion at the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA)
Chenny Xia
Co-founder of Gotcare


Get Involved

Kim de Laat
Postdoctoral fellow at Brock University, Department of Sociology
Ashleigh Montague