Strengthening Ecosystem Supports for Women Entrepreneurs: Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) action strategy

To inform i2 policies and practice, this report highlights the lessons learned from a comprehensive gender- based assessment of Ontario small business, innovation and social enterprise organizations.

Activities included secondary analyses of Statistics Canada data, an online survey of 117 mainstream and women-focused intermediaries, 25 onsite interviews with leaders of Ontario business support organizations, and six regional workshops. A capstone conference was held at the Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership at the University of Ottawa in June 2019.
Inclusive innovation is a top-of-mind concern for leaders of Ontario small business, innovation and social enterprise organizations. The business case or diversity-as-competitive-advantage is a primary motive for supporting i2. Four of the 25 interview participants cited equity as a rationale to support i2.

With respect to the approaches to supporting gender and diversity, three themes emerged: all are welcome; there is a need to support women in mainstream operations; and the value of women-only, feminist, and women-focused enterprise supports. The assessment found clear evidence as to the importance of employing an intersectional lens
in constructing i2 small business and innovation services. Most gender and diversity initiatives were informal, in development, or aspirational.

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