Diversity and Inclusion remain challenges for Small Business support organizations

Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2019

women business owners chatting

The Telfer School of Management Centre for Executive Leadership, at the University of Ottawa and Ryerson Diversity Institute have partnered to conduct a gender-based assessment of Ontario small business support organizations.

This assessment offers new insights and strategies to support diverse women entrepreneurs.

The report can be found at Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy. The action strategy is among the most extensive, gender-based ecosystem assessment of small business support organizations in the world. 

The report encourages substantive collaboration among mainstream and women-focused business organizations, and better coordination for program funding, particularly targeted at women-focused initiatives.

The majority of public investments targeted for ‘high growth’ small business or business support organizations often fail to consider equity and diversity for the fund recipients. The study is important given that most Ontario small business programs favour older, established small and medium-sized businesses. While close to 70 % of organizations do not provide gender equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) training for staff or clients, the report considers recruitment, engagement, tracking and information on under-represented groups essential. The researchers also recommend building EDI assessment criteria directly into the funding requests for proposals.

According to Telfer School of Management Professor Barbara Orser, and the Principal Investigator:

“This report provides Canadians with a better understanding of the challenges for small business and innovation organizations in supporting the inclusion of diverse women entrepreneurs. The study establishes benchmarks to monitor progress, and presents new insight about assessing organizational practices. The findings  can be used to construct ‘gender-smart’ entrepreneurship education and training. The findings demonstrate that it’s time to scale up women-owned business, rather than focus on women-owned startups.”

The report is particularly relevant to small business and innovation support organizations, including executive directors, educators, trainers and entrepreneurs.

A day-long conference at uOttawa Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership will bring together leaders of small business and innovation support organizations, scholars, policymakers and champions of Canadian entrepreneurs to discuss the assessment and strategies to improve practices to better support diverse women entrepreneurs.


For more information:

Karyne Vienneau
Media Relations Officer
University of Ottawa
Cell: 613-762-2908

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