Women starting businesses in Canada to benefit from development of national Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub

Toronto, ON, December 11, 2018: Canadian women are the most active entrepreneurs  in the world with more women starting businesses than in any other county, but barriers exist that can impede their success. Now, they stand to benefit from a new national network of knowledge and tools being created to support them and future women entrepreneurs to come. Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute will lead, in collaboration with Ryerson’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and the Ted Rogers School of Management, a diverse, nation-wide and committed network of researchers, practitioners, and key ecosystem stakeholders to create a more inclusive and supportive environment and grow women’s entrepreneurship in Canada. With regional hubs and an initial network of supporters that includes almost 50 organizations, WEKH is designed to address the needs of diverse women across regions and across sectors.

On December 3, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, announced that Ryerson University was selected in the competition for the $9 million Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), to lead a network of universities, researchers, women’s organizations, business support organizations and incubators, and community groups.  A key part of the Government of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, the WEKH will help benchmark and track the status of women’s entrepreneurship in Canada and strengthen collaboration and sharing of best practices. By engaging women’s organizations and helping mainstream organizations become more inclusive in their policies, programs and practices, it will challenge stereotypes and leverage research to build women’s entrepreneurial success.

A first in Canada, the WEKH will also be supported by an advanced digital platform, powered by Ryerson’s Magnet.  Magnet, which already serves women-led SMEs through its talent portal and its Magnet Export Business Portal, will provide an advanced online platform to link service providers, academics, government and industry. Sharing knowledge, identifying leading practices and sharing evidence-based solutions will help organizations better serve women entrepreneurs. Ryerson is also home to the world’s leading university linked DMZ and is part of a national network of incubators, Incubate Innovate Network of Canada (I-INC). Ryerson’s policy think tank, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, and Ted Rogers School of Management, home to Canada’s largest entrepreneurship program, will also offer unparalleled expertise, established partnerships and deep experience to support WEKH.

WEKH recognizes that entrepreneurship expands beyond STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-based start-ups and will include the full range of activities–from tech to services, to retail but also farmers, artists and social enterprises. Entrepreneurship is not just an opportunity for the wealthy, but can also provide a pathway out of poverty in communities across the country. WEKH will share knowledge to inform policies and programs and will identify, develop, replicate and scale best practices for supporting women entrepreneurs across the system.

Currently, there is a patchwork of complex interactions and networks (formal and informal), between post-secondary institutions, business support service providers (including incubators), financial institutions and government programs. WEKH will build a coordinated network to foster an evidence-based policy and practice. It will identify, develop and translate best practices for supporting women entrepreneurs into tools and resources that are accessible to the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem.

WEKH will operate in both official languages, and currently includes a network of partners that reaches more than 100,000 women entrepreneurs at different stages of development and more than 250 organizations. The partners have committed to investing in its sustainability, a testament to its importance.


“We are very much looking forward to collaborating with women entrepreneurs, researchers and key stakeholders across Canada to remove barriers and help accelerate the growth of women-led enterprises. An effective strategy to advance women’s entrepreneurship must be grounded in evidence and a deep understanding of how the innovation ecosystem works.  By building a ‘network of networks’ and interconnecting both women’s organizations and mainstream stakeholders, the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub will fill the gaps in strengthening dedicated women’s services and mainstream gender and diversity across the women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Through deliberate design, the Ryerson‐led WEKH seeks to attract the leading, nascent, and underserved voices in the women entrepreneurship ecosystem to provide input into the activities of WEKH, as well as to benefit from its outputs.”Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder, Diversity Institute and professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy

“The YWCA is delighted to be part of the Ryerson-led bid to establish the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH). We know how important it is to have an inter-sectional approach to women’s economic inclusion and to ensure that we include diverse women in strategies to advance entrepreneurship.  We are longstanding partners of Ryerson’s Diversity Institute and know that they are particularly good at moving beyond research to action. Coupled with the extensive and diverse range of experts and stakeholders from across the country, we believe that this project will help build a more inclusive innovation ecosystem in Canada particularly for diverse women.  The YWCA Canada will bring its deep expertise in working with marginalized women across the country and its experience with entrepreneurship as a pathway to economic inclusion to this important project.”Maya Roy, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA

“ITAC has partnered with Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute on a variety of  initiatives and proposals that aim to improve the condition of marginalized communities within the Canadian labour market, including the International Innovation and Inclusion Network (IIIN), Bridging the ICT Skills Gap, and the Workforce Innovation and Inclusion Project (WIIP). Through this work – as well as our own efforts around diversity and inclusiveness a national industry association – we  see particular value in the proposed efforts to identify barriers that hinder and limit the success of too many women entrepreneurs. We are strongly committed to working collaboratively to share best practices and to developing digital platforms that will help link women to available supports and resources. We believe this will help to fill an important gap, especially with women entrepreneurs, within and external to the Canadian ICT sector.”Denise Shortt, Acting President and CEO, Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)


Kathleen Powderley, Responsible Communications, 416-803-5597, [email protected]
Pour une version francaise de la communiqué de presse.

Eight Regional Hubs:

National in scope, the consortium will be made up of eight regional hubs, which will coordinate mapping and stakeholder engagement in different regions led by

  • Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
  • Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario)
  • Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
  • Mount Royal University (Calgary, Alberta)
  • PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise (Thunder Bay, Ontario)
  • Ryerson University and OCAD University (Toronto, Ontario)
  • Simon Fraser University VentureLabs® (Vancouver, British Columbia)
  • Université de Montréal (Montréal, Quebec)

Initial Partners and Supporters:

Leading experts on women’s entrepreneurship and research institutes:

  • Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder and Academic Director, Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute
  • Valerie Fox, Chief Innovation Consultant, The Pivotal Point, and Founding Executive Director, Ryerson University DMZ.
  • Dr. Mary Kilfoil, Acting Director, Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship
  • Dr. Suzanne Gagnon, Great-West Life Chair in Leadership Education and Director, Institute for Leadership Development, University of Manitoba
  • Clare Beckton, Carleton’s Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work (CREWW)
  • Janice McDonald, Founder, The Beacon Agency
  • Dr. Tania Saba, BMO Chair in Diversity and Governance and Dr. Marie-Thérèse Chicha, Chair in Ethnic Relations, Université de Montréal
  • Dr. Sarah Kaplan, Director, University of Toronto’s Institute for Gender and the Economy
  • Dr. Peter Josty, Executive Director, THECIS (home of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor)
  • Dr. Jaigris Hodson, Associate Professor and Program Head, MAIS, Royal Roads University


  • Accelerator for Centennial Community Entrepreneurs and Leaders (ACCEL), Centennial College
  • ACCES Employment
  • Ashoka Canada
  • Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University
  • Bank of Montreal
  • Boss Insights
  • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
  • Canada Pakistan Business Council
  • Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Canadian Society for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • City of Toronto
  • Communitech
  • Conference Board of Canada
  • CPAC (Formerly Chinese Professionals Association of Canada)
  • Enactus Canada
  • Enterprise Saint John
  • Ernst & Young LLP
  • Futurpreneur Canada
  • Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, University of Calgary
  • Incubate, Innovate, Network of Canada (I?INC)
  • Information Technology Association of Canada
  • Information Technology Association of Manitoba
  • LeaderBoom
  • Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology
  • Momentum Canada
  • NexusBC
  • Offset Market Exchange (OMX)
  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • Organization for Women in International Trade – Toronto (OWIT-Toronto)
  • Red River College
  • ReMAP (Refined Manufacturing Acceleration Process)
  • S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
  • Sackville Commons Co-op
  • Scadding Court Community Centre
  • SheEO
  • Skills for Change
  • Smart Cities Challenge: Innovation and the Indigenous District (Toronto)
  • Spark Niagara
  • University of New Brunswick, Faculty of Business Administration
  • VanCity Credit Union
  • Women in Capital Markets
  • Women of Influence
  • Youth Employment Services
  • YWCA Canada