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LIISBETH DISPATCH #45

VIEWPOINT

Mountains of private sector led studies and a handful of task forces over the past ten years on how to unleash the power of women entrepreneurs…and we are no further ahead. In fact, the 2017 McKinsey study on gender parity in Canada identified that Canada had “extremely high inequality in five out of fiftteen indicators.”  One of those was women’s entrepreneurship. According to the study, it will take us 180 years to reach parity in terms of creating an environment where women entrepreneurs can thrive as well—or as easily—as their male counterparts.

One of the reasons for this disappointing rate of progress, in my opinion, is the fact that we have allowed a handful of powerful, privileged people, girl-boss celebrities and Bro’ tech voices to have an outsized impact on how we view women’s entrepreneurship. The learning here is: women entrepreneurs are not mini-men entrepreneurs. A woman’s lived experience in a kyriarchal world is entirely different than a man’s and thus, not surprisingly, so is their approach to venture design and growth. Instead of developing programs and policies designed to homogenize and encourage women entrepreneurs to learn how to proceed like unencumbered, entitled tech-dudes, it’s time to recognize, celebrate, and amplify our uniqueness.

And here’s the good news. This might finally happen.

This summer, the Canadian government launched a competitive bid process to establish an independent Womens Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub fuelled by a hefty $8.62 million dollar budget over three years. The application must be be consortium based and led by an academic institution. The goal? Take off the Tom Ford aviators and see things as they really are. 

Grant opportunities like this don’t happen often so it’s no surprise that the competition is fierce. The assessment criteria includes points for things like research credentials, large project management skills, plans for long term financial sustainability, and the ability to leverage technology. Applicants must also demonstrate some level of prior engagement and knowledge of women’s entrepreneurship in Canada, the ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs, plus experience working with diverse, intersectional groups of women.

All useful criteria on which to base a decision.

But…let’s face it. If we truly want to see different results from the past, it’s the leadership style of the lead applicant team that matters most.

When it comes to awarding big government contracts, we tend to go for thigh thundering T-Rex’s bearing gifts. The bigger and louder the better. We think someone famous, aggressive, with corporate connections who is chummy with the 1% will help get things done.

But if we want a different result, we need a different approach. Like Dandelion leadership.

In feminist and activist literature, the natural characteristics of the lowly dandelion is often referred to as a metaphor for the type leadership needed to advance social equity in any space, including entrepreneurship. Dandelion leaders recognize that innovation and leadership can come from anywhere, not just the tip of the economic iceberg. Dandelions are democratic, humble, agile, and responsive to their environment. They don’t care where they grow. They are everywhere. Farmer’s fields, a gated community lawn, or between cracks in sidewalks. They deeply understand the concept of inter-independence because without it, they die. They help nourish and ripen challenging ideas. They detoxify. They encourage others around them to flourish as opposed to expanding their own empires. And at the same time, they are not afraid of revolution. Imagine a field overrun with dandelions!

Imagine an economy fuelled by feminism. 

Canada has lagged in its ability to productively support women entrepreneurs because this diverse and heterogenous community is still greatly misunderstood and misrepresented. Moving forward, one way to avoid this is to ensure research and collaborations engage grass roots organizations, feminist leaders, and the kaleidoscope of main street female entrepreneurs in purposeful ways. No more tokenism.

This will take a leadership team that knows about creating safe environments. People who can harvest and include learnings from the fringe. An open minded team who is understands collective impact theory. Someone willing to challenge the current dysfunctional sacred cows of entrepreneurship and innovation—perhaps throwing them out all together.

The decision regarding who gets to lead the hub will be announced in October. I can’t wait. 

And I, for one, will be rooting for the dandelion team who is able to take root in depleted spaces and encourage generative growth.


LiisBeth Founder & Publisher

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About White Privilege: Themes From the White Privilege Conference in Toronto

What happens when you think of white privilege? Maybe it makes you angry. Perhaps it’s a subject you avoid. Possibly you become itchy and uncomfortable because if you are white (and privileged) you feel like you are to blame. If you are a member of a minority facing struggles because of race, how do you get someone to understand your barriers, challenges, and point of view?

White Privilege Conference has become synonymous with tackling widespread issues of inequality and 2018 marked the first time WPC has crossed the border for a Canadian version of the conference.

Dr. Golnaz Golnaraghi’s story is a moving and inspiring account of her time at the White Privilege Conference, and includes practical ways we can move towards solutions and change. Read it here.

The four Atlanta social ventures awarded a total of $200,000 by the Sara Blakely Foundation and Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI) through the Civic Impact Loan Fund.

Change Makers: A unique residency supports women entrepreneurs on the front line of social innovation

Welcome to Atlanta, the city with the highest rate of income inequality in the US. Now, thanks to the vision of Rohit Malhotra who worked on civic innovation initiatives in the Obama administration and Sara BlakelyAtlanta’s most influential female entrepreneur and Spanx CEO and founder, The Centre for Civic Innovation is fostering startups who are addressing the root cause of why this inequality exists. From yoga practice for police officers to Civic Dinners bringing community members together, the centre provides financial and development support to entrepreneurs.

Adina Solomon explains how the one-year residency is measured by how much the entrepreneurs achieve – not by financial indicators. Check out the article here.

Above: Lido Pimienta, Venus Fest 2017

New LiisBeth Playlist! Time to Soar

September is here. Time to get back to initiatives, routines, and commitments sometimes left to languish as we frenetically try to enjoy our short summers.

To get back into the swing of things, Aerin Fogel, founder of Venus Fest, created a new playlist for LiisBeth to help get us back into gear! Have a listen here.

The playlist features ten artists performing at this year’s Venus Fest, a Toronto music festival and concert series celebrating feminism in the arts. It happens Thursday to Saturday, September 22-24th at various locations!

FEMINIST FREEBIE! VENUS FEST PASS GIVEAWAY!  LiisBeth has two festival passes to give away to the first two LiisBethians to complete our reader survey today on September 11th! Recipients will be announced on Twitter (and notified by email).

All LiisBeth subscribers are also invited to the Venusfest Pre-Party Show and Panel which happens at the Drake Underground on Saturday, September 15th. Tickets are $12 in advance.

Feminist campers

WTF is Feminist Camp?

You can find a camp for anything: music, archery, cooking…and now, there is Feminist Camp, a front-row seat to feminist work, activism, and action beyond classroom theories. Feminist Camp is the brainchild of two women on a mission to show (mostly) college-aged women what their futures might look like. Campers meet professionals like judges, police officers, and artists who practice feminism in their jobs.

No bonfires or marshmallows, but an impromptu sing-a-long could very well erupt on the streets of New York City, Seattle, or Zambia, along with a renewed sense of direction, confidence, and possibilities. Catherine Drillis shares her thoughts from Feminist Camp’s HQ, located at Ms. Foundation in NYC. Read the piece here.

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES

The RAISE Collective

The weRAISE 2018 program featured seven women-led ventures seeking capital for growth from industries including technology and consumer goods.  The #womenRAISE campaign took place over 100 days with the cohort collectively raised $1M.

Entrepreneurs benefitted from the connections they made and to having access to the right types of capital for their specific needs.” – Jill Earthy, RAISE Founder

weRAISE is now collaborating with Female Funders, a program for women interested in investing and who are unlocking capital to support female entrepreneurs. To learn about the need to increase gender diversity within Canada’s investment ecosystem, check out the Women in Venture report.

The next weRAISE cohort launches in early 2019. Companies who want to learn more can visit www.theraisecollective.com

Thrive Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs

Brew yourself a cup and have a listen to this 30 minute podcast from Start Up Canada. Janice MacDonald chats with Petra Kassun-Mutch about everything from B-corp info, responsibilities of an entrepreneur, and the five values of the feminist business model canvas. Do you know what they are?

Pramilla Ramdahani, Founder of the Community Innovation Lab

NO WAY! A FINANCE CONFERENCE JUST FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS!

Pramilla Ramhahani (pictured above), founder and CEO of Durham region’s Community Innovation Lab saw the economic and personal transformation potential of women entrepreneurs. So she created the Refinery, a  women’s entrepreneurship program that will provide technical advisory support, workshops, bootcamps, year-long intensive coaching, and co-working hub space to an estimated 1,435+ female entrepreneurs over the next three years.

The Community Innovation Lab (CiLab), is a not for profit organization currently led by an all-female staff.

On September 12th, CiLab is holding the first women-centric finance conference of its kind in the region where they will announce a significant partnership with the Business Development Corporation to advance startups and women entrepreneurs across Ontario.

If you are looking for women-led financing opportunities, don’t miss this conference! It will be worth the drive to Durham.

The Conference will be held at the Co-ilab hub on 600 Rossland Rd., Oshawa. To get tickets visit: www.communityilab.ca

But how do you really feel? What do you really think?

LiisBeth has grown to over 1850 newsletter subscribers.  And we thought it might be time for us all to get to know ourselves better as a community. So we created the “un-reader” survey in that nu-uh, we aren’t going to ask you about what kinds of articles you like or advertiser-centric demographic questions. We don’t even advertise!

WE WANT TO KNOW: what you’re thinking about, what you care about, your views on feminism, and your take on how LiisBeth can improve.

This survey takes about 12 minutes.We also understand your time is super valuable. So in return for your generosity, we will be publishing a copy of our survey results on LiisBeth so that you too, can get to know this community better!

To take the survey now, click here.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Vivek Shraya’s poetry collection, even this page is white, is a bold and personal interrogation of skin–its origins, functions, and limitations. Shraya paints the face of everyday racism with words, rendering it visible, tangible, and undeniable. (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) “A provocative meditation on what it means to grow up anything other than white in Canada, tackling institutional racism and sexual identity from a unique viewpoint, all delivered with astute observation and trenchant insight.” — Rollie Pemberton, former Edmonton Poet Laureate

Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times by Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman is not what you might expect given the title. While this hard core left of centre book clearly advocates for change through activism, it has a unique perspective on this type of work and issues experienced by those working in the thick of it. If you have been growing tired of resisting Trump, Ford, and other various forms of oppression, injustice or new policies that create more barriers rather than remove them, this book serves as a bit of a pick me up.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT 

  • Healing Solidarity Online Conference
    Eunice Baguna Ball, Founder of ATBN (African Technology Business Netowork) will be speaking at Healing Solidartiy’s week-long conference about reimagining international development. Get your free ticket here.
  • New Women’s Cannabis Entrepreneur Accelerator in Oregon! The state’s first cannabis accelerator program and co-working & events space is dedicated to boosting women entrepreneurs and their weed businesses #womeninweed
  • YMCA Launch Women’s Empowerment Exchange Traded Fund — Impact Shares and YWCA US now offer an exchange traded fund (ETF) on the New York Stock Exchange enabling investors to invest in companies whose practices are aligned with gender-equality standards. Now that’s pretty cool. Will Canada’s YWCA be next?
  • Size doesn’t matter! Supporting membership to the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) is free and open to any organization that supports its objectives. To join, find out more here.
  • As the hype winds down from the federal government’s August 31st release of the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy (sisfs.ca) Co-creation steering group’s recommendations, you can still make some noise! Email your MP or tweet about it using #sisfs #innovate4impact
    Read the full report here

That brings us to the end of our September newsletter. The next website refresh and newsletter is scheduled for October 15th, 2018.  
Did you read something of value in this newsletter?

LiisBeth is the only media voice in the world which supports the work of feminist entrepreneurs and innovators. We are 100% reader supported. If you love what we do, become a subscriber to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptions are $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.

We are now also on Patreon!  You can choose to donate to us there!

Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. Building a more just future requires time, love—and financial support.

Enjoy September. Peace out.

                

Petra Kassun-Mutch                                                  Lana Pesch
Founding Publisher, LiisBeth                                  Newsletter & Associate Editor

 

 

Categories
Activism & Action Systems

Confronting Gender Inequity And Inclusion in The Innovation Space

Many people seem to believe that innovation capacity is any economy’s secret sauce. The more of it, the better. According to many experts, achieving top tier results in the innovation race is as simple as focusing on getting more business owners and entrepreneurs innovating. In other words, it’s a numbers game.

If this is truly the case, then surely solving Canada’s innovation under-performance is a cinch. Just offer relevant support for ambitious, talented women in the innovation space and the number of entrepreneurs and businesses innovating could increase by 30 per cent overnight. The economic impact would be seismic.

Yet the $200-million-per-year innovation strategy now being touted on the conference circuit by Minister Navdeep Bains, which highlights many ways to drive more innovation output, says nothing about gender parity, let alone mentioning it as a big opportunity. Additionally, the documents circulating online about the initiative also gives no indication that it is even a priority.

Improving on Canada’s glacial innovation advancement record is an important pursuit but so far, this new plan isn’t hot enough to unleash its benefits, especially if it continues to leave female innovators chilly, and potentially out in the cold.

Are Today’s Incubators and Accelerators the Solution?

The Bains mandate states “expanding effective support for incubators [and] accelerators” as a key solution. But how well do today’s incubators and accelerators serve women?

Let’s take a look at an example up close.

One of the most prestigious, well-resourced, young talent–seeking incubators in the country, The Next 36, proudly announced on June 15 a new venture capital fund led by BDC Capital in participation with Globalive Capital and private investors. While this may sound like good news for innovation, one must ask why more money is being spent to support a program run by a 92 per cent male leadership structure?

A closer look at the organization’s leadership (as advertised on its website) finds that men make up six out of seven of its founders, 13 of its 14 board members, 13 of its 14 faculty members, and 19 of its 22 mentors. And the number of female innovators selected annually to participate in this elite program ranges from five to 11 out of a total of 36 per session over the past four years. Go a level deeper and look at seven of the companies that the current board members of The Next 36 work for as their “day job” collectively. The boards and senior management of these companies have just five women in a total of 48 positions (that’s just 11 per cent).

It doesn’t seem to get any better when it comes to the leadership of the principal partners involved in this newly announced fund. Government-owned BDC Capital lists eight men and just one woman on its executive team. Globalive Capital and Alignvest, both self-described “world-class” investment management firms, are made up of 100 per cent men in their partner ranks.

Gender inequality at work in this incubator is more than skin deep. Sadly, The Next 36, an idea with exceptional potential, is starting to look more like The Past 36 at a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-declared feminist, managed to achieve gender parity in cabinet in one fell swoop.

Moreover, The Next 36 example is not an isolated one. Here in Ontario alone, many regional innovation centres themselves acknowledge and report sub-optimal performance in the gender equality department with participation level ranging from a low of four per cent to a high of 25 per cent.

The innovation eco-system has a long way to go to meet Kathleen Wynne’s and Justin Trudeau’s standards of gender parity.

Back to Canada’s Innovation Strategy

If we truly believe gender diversity has a business case when it comes to realizing enhanced performance, then we must also believe that gender diversity matters in innovation policy.

Solutions

LiisBeth has four ideas to offer:

  • First, government-funded incubators should be asked to pledge to achieve gender parity within management and mentor ranks by the end of 2017 and be given one year to get there.
  • Innovation policy should encourage and support the creation of autonomous, women-led, female founder–focused incubators and innovation programs. It’s nice to think a gender-blind approach is a pinnacle of form, but if we are honest we know it typically means a male-led and male-centred approach to a masculine culture environment that—by the way—also welcomes women. The research is clear. This works for some, but not many.
  • Unleash innovation at the margins by developing a complimentary demographic-based incubator strategy. Innovating something new and forgoing income to do it is scary enough, let alone trying to succeed in a space that doesn’t make you feel like you belong. Many talented innovators simply do not feel comfortable or motivated by being a part of a culturally or socially alien space, including Indigenous, trans, new Canadian, or age 50-plus entrepreneurs. It might be interesting to note that other nations seem to have figured this out. For example, Israel now has an ultra-orthodox tech incubator. If we want more business owners and entrepreneurs innovating in Canada, we cannot arrogantly insist that they all participate in an environment “we” think is best for them. A little support for demographically specific incubators would go a long way.
  • Finally, we should also require all private venture capital firms seeking government-matching funds to disclose their gender equity and diversity state, and submit plans for improving them within 18 months if they are below the water line. We all know this: equal access to capital is absolutely critical if we are to truly leverage our talented female and other marginalized innovators.

Optimism?

There is room for optimism. For example, the Bains Ministry’s recently published backgrounder states: “Only by mobilizing every sector of society to do its part will all Canadians have the opportunity to participate fully in an innovation economy.”

In addition, Bains’ mandate letter from the prime minister says expressly that the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development is expected to “help ensure gender parity.” As his mandate marching orders—and common sense—dictates, Bains must work to correct a no longer acceptable gender gap in the innovation space.

How much he has taken to heart in this arena is unclear. Bains’ recent eight-minute speech at Canada 2020 covered the usual: the importance of tech; being kinder to failure; his father’s $5 self-made entrepreneurial journey; the value of universities; and how to become a global innovation leader. But there was nothing said on the issue of gender parity in the innovation space.

If Minister Bains wants to succeed where others have failed, and if indeed, winning at innovation is a numbers game, then fostering gender equality and broader inclusion overall are two significant opportunities that should not be overlooked.


Want to write to Minister Navdeep Bains to voice your opinion on his innovation strategy? He is looking for input. Details on how to contribute to the discussion have not yet been announced, but in the meantime, you can email him at Navdeep.Bains@parl.gc.ca


Categories
Systems

Are Nonprofits Getting in the Way of Social Change?

The ability to bring about change is as powerful today as it has ever been.

Through the actions of many people, groups and technologies, transformational social change is within new reach but it is also causing new and very different expectations of nonprofits groups.
In his provokingly titled article for the Stanford Review, Paul Klein explains why nonprofits are losing their monopoly as the most effective agents of social change.
Klein is the President and Founder of Impakt, a Toronto-based corporate social responsibility consultancy. He believes that significant new innovation from nonprofit organizations will not be possible until they begin embrace structural change themselves.

Unless nonprofits evolve, he explains that corporations, B Corps, and social enterprises will eclipse them. Funders have become impatient with the status quo in the nonprofit sector. They are limiting themselves by “slow-moving, institutional, and self-interested business practices” – making significant social change almost impossible.

Funders at all levels expect high performance and as a result are more selective about what nonprofits they support. They want social change organizations to do whatever it takes to get the biggest results at the lowest cost in the shortest period of time. They also want to see more collaborative efforts between companies and countries in setting strong goals, having clear plans, and openly demonstrating progress.

So the big question is, should nonprofits be biased towards putting themselves out of business?

With constraints to agility and innovation, Klein argues that it is time for nonprofits to be less bureaucratic and more responsive to the changing contexts in which they operate. “Funders are expecting significant change from charities,” writes Klein. “Starting with an intention of being much less institutional and much more entrepreneurial.”

Jay Coen Gilbert, cofounder of B-Lab explains that funders want to focus on what works. He outlines some of the changes that would help move organizations toward solving issues faster in a way that funders want to see:

  1. Pay-for-performance: Linking salaries and bonuses to specific social change objectives.
  2. Establishing review process: Looking at the data of all programs to identify initiatives that (a) other organizations would handle better or (b) consider partnerships with the private sector in order to improve performance
  3. Introducing new exit protocol: Major supporters would diminish investment requirements as social change outcomes improve.

Many are still uncertain however of how shifting to a new structural model would fair for the majority of nonprofits. Mission drift, loss of focus on the communities and budget restraints are among the primary concerns. The gap between the capacity of small nonprofits versus large nonprofits raises another important question of how would smaller, local nonprofits benefit from a switch to for profit models.

For the full article and discussion, visit this link.

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Belief-based Social Innovation: Gender-Lens’ Next Frontier

We have reached the point when the conversation of women led entrepreneurship needs to shift beyond the rhetoric of empowerment and awareness. “Deeper contradictions between organizational goals and gender norms require more artful probing,” writes Emily Neilsen Jones and Musimbi Kanyoro in their recent co-authored article Belief- Based Social Innovation: Gender-Lens’ Next Frontier. “

Emily Nielsen Jones is co-founder and president of the Imago Dei Fund which is engaged in promoting human equality, justice, and peace around the world. Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women the largest publicly supported grant making foundation that advances human rights by investing in women-led organizations. Both co-authors believe that gender-lens investing needs to “move beyond seeing women and girls as a separate programmatic silo in one’s portfolio”, and that  gender norms need to be re-evaluated.

They ask:

“How can empowerment programs empower someone who is still seen by their culture and their religion as not possessing basic human agency to participate equally in their family, their community, and in all aspects of society?”

This is the elephant in the room.

Jones and Kanyoro believe that private philanthropy plays a critical role in strategically supporting networks of indigenous change agents working to create a deeper shift in gender norms. They call this type of work “belief-based social innovation.” In their article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review they explore global gender progress to date, the barriers to change that women face, and three promising paths for philanthropists seeking to influence beliefs at the root of harmful gender norms.

Read the full article, Belief-Based Social Innovation: Gender-Lens’ Next Frontier.