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Women and the Venture Capital Industry in Canada and the United States

Canada | 2024

This report, a literature review, forms part of The Allyship initiative, which aims to increase the representation of women in VC across North America to 30%, and is a collaboration with venture capitalist Neal Dempsey, managing partner at Bay Partners in Silicon Valley. As part of The Allyship, Ethical Digital launched an eight-month research project with the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management to identify barriers for women entering the profession and provide recommendations. 

The venture capital (VC) industry in Canada and the U.S. plays a vital role in economic prosperity, yet women face barriers at societal, organizational and individual levels that hinder their entry, retention and advancement in the field. 

The report reviews the literature on the VC ecosystem in Canada, with comparisons to the U.S. and United Kingdom. It discusses policies and practices in the field through the analysis of 15 interviews by key women VC senior leaders in Canada and the U.S. It finds that women’s representations in the VC industry are significantly affected by key barriers at the societal, organizational and individual levels, a few of which are highlighted below, followed by a select list of interventions and recommendations. For the full list of barriers, interventions and recommendations, download the report. 

Societal-Level Barriers

  • Networking and relationship-building are essential for VC entry, but gender-based biases hinder women's opportunities.
  • Gender stereotypes, bias and education requirements limit women's capacity building in VC.
  • Limited regulation and interventions further impede women's representation and entry into the industry.

Organizational-Level Barriers

  • Men-dominated organizational culture perpetuates the exclusion of women.
  • A lack of diversity and gender focus, respect toward women and supportive policies hamper women's advancement.
  • Changes in recruitment, parental leave support and equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)-specific practices are necessary to dismantle existing norms.

Individual-Level Barriers

  • Educational requirements, skill shortages and lack of effective leadership hinder women's advancement.
  • Gender stereotypes in degree requirements disproportionately exclude women.
  • Mentorship, networking and learning opportunities are essential for overcoming individual-level barriers.


Societal-Level Interventions

  • Government regulations and interventions are crucial for promoting women's representation.
  • Tax incentives, labour-sponsored VC funds and government-sponsored VC initiatives can support gender equality.
  • Canadian government program interventions such as the Canadian Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative provide promising solutions for remedying the gender inequality that may be neglected through the Canadian Human Rights Act, provincial human rights codes and provincial anti-harassment legislation.

Organizational-Level Interventions

  • Acknowledging diversity as a core value and developing mentorship programs are crucial.
  • Improving access to women candidates and formalizing hiring and advancement policies can enhance representation.
  • Collecting data on diversity and inclusion within VC firms is essential.

Individual-Level Interventions

  • Implementing unconscious bias training and behaviour-based incentives can address systemic changes.
  • Programs should focus on changing social norms within VC firms and achieving diversity targets.


Societal-Level Recommendations

  • Improve access to government-funded programs supporting women and other equity-deserving groups.
  • Attract young talent to the VC industry through the procurement of government subsidies for internship and co-op programs.
  • Improve government initiatives for women-owned start-ups to provide market linkage support and supply chain connections.

Organizational-Level Recommendations

  • Challenge the social and cultural norms embedded in the status quo of post-secondary educational programs by increasing the representation of women and providing students with opportunities for job coaching, mentorship and professional development.
  • Support the development of a funding pool for women startups with due diligence that monitors and tracks the use of those funds.
  • Acknowledge the skills-and-needs gaps of certain cultural groups such as Indigenous communities in relation to VC education.
  • Continue to collect metrics for tracking and monitoring EDI practices and implement a system for regular reporting.

Individual-Level Recommendations

  • Consider increased representation of diverse investors and investment portfolios, and procure more capital through the assistance of a diverse group of investors.
  • Formulate portfolio strategies that are reflective of EDI focused decision-making criteria
  • Create stronger connections with role leaders and senior management to promote inclusion and diverse representation.

In conclusion, the report outlines the barriers facing women in the VC industry and highlights the importance of implementing interventions to enhance their representation and impact in the VC industry in Canada and the U.S. These results are a roadmap for venture capitalists, entrepreneurs pursuing investment and policymakers that will help to promote gender parity in VC toward securing a brighter future for technology entrepreneurs and the next generation of women entering the VC industry. For an in-depth look, download the report. 


February 2024

Cover of Women and the Venture Capital Industry in Canada and the United States