CanCon Podcast Ep. 109: How BDC spends your money to support Women in Tech

woman in office

When #Budget2018 dropped, we had many questions about the gap between the government’s narrative and the specifics of its spending, particularly with BDC’s Women in Tech fund, a $200 million initiative. At the time, we asked if funding for ‘women-led technology firms’ should go to companies with male leaders.

This week, Michelle Scarborough, BDC Capital’s Managing Director for Strategic Investments and Women in Tech, joins to help answer your questions. Some highlights:

  • Yes, BDC is willing to use its Women in Tech fund to finance companies founded and run by men if they contain women in leadership positions.
  • No, the Shopify hypothetical we posed in episode 107 doesn’t fly because BDC says it has a set of criteria to ensure these women leaders aren’t in token positions but are demonstrably driving the business forward.
  • No, BDC won’t (yet) share the full list of those criteria.
  • Yes, BDC (or Scarborough at least) believes that having as wide a funding criteria as possible is the smartest approach to fostering a larger pool of women in tech (a contention the Move The Dial would agree with), but the team is open to feedback, including on changing the fund’s name.

There’s a lot more contained within the 40-minute interview, but perhaps the main takeaway is that despite the federal government’s recent funding announcement (which still isn’t reflected on BDC’s website, by the way), the Women in Tech fund is not a set program, but still one very much in development — despite being around in one form or another since 2016 (note: Scarborough joined to head the ship in 2017). It’s hard to judge these initiatives on anything other than their merits, but it’s clear that the government racing out in front has created an optics and expectations problem.

In a recent interview with Navdeep Bains, soon to be published on BetaKit, the ISED Minister said that a clear set of criteria on how BDC would deploy its Women in Tech funding would be revealed in the coming months. But he also said this:

“We ultimately want to change the culture. We ultimately want to make sure that businesses and companies really rally around equality and diversity. And we’re gonna hold them to account in our programming. We have these funds and these initiatives in place, but we have a rigorous process to make sure that people don’t game the system, that people genuinely understand our policy objectives, and we’re going to track and measure how these funds are deployed, and what outcomes were getting, and how this is genuinely helping women entrepreneurs.”

It’s an incredible balancing act to meet the expectations of a successful fund and grow diversity in Canada’s tech community. One gets the sense that heads will roll if Scarborough and her team can’t deliver on both.

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CanCon Podcast Episode 109 (04/03/18)

Women in tech or Women-led tech?
CanCon Podcast Ep. 107: What if the Women in Tech fund isn’t used for women in tech?
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Canadian Content music clip (under fair dealing): “Side Tracked” by Born Ruffians
Ad music: “Dreams” by Joakim Karud

Feature image courtesy Burst.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.