Ten things worth reading on International Women’s Day

Women in Tech
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International Women’s Day focuses on highlighting the accomplishments of women, as well as the challenges that they face. Those challenges aren’t limited to one single day, it’s every day, in both their personal and professional lives.

BetaKit has collected a variety of articles that we hope can be used to raise awareness and create actionable takeaways. The following list is a collection of talking points, educational tools, and support resources. Originally compiled in 2020, BetaKit has updated it each year since then with additional talking points and resources.

We encourage you to read and share, to amplify the conversation.

Diversity gap persists in senior ranks of Canadian VC firms

Despite year-over-year gains in the representation of women and visible minorities at Canadian venture firms, senior-level diversity in the industry is still lagging, according to a 2023 report from BDC Capital.

BDC Capital’s report found that overall, diversity at the senior levels of the private asset industry remains low—almost half of venture firms are entirely male owned, while eight percent are entirely visible minority owned and two percent are entirely woman or Indigenous owned. Only 31 percent of venture firms reported having gender parity.

These findings should come as no surprise given that reports indicate that women-founded startups still only receive a very small slice of overall venture capital (VC) investment. According to PitchBook data, women only received 1.9 percent of all VC investment in 2022. Even worse, this already small share appears to have been dropping each of the past few years.

Women remain a smaller fraction of the managerial and entrepreneurial workforce

A recent Canadian Chamber of Commerce report titled “Barely Breaking Ground,” found that women remain significantly underrepresented in management and entrepreneurial roles in Canada, lagging behind the United States and several other developed nations. 

Despite constituting 48 percent of the workforce in 2023, women only accounted for 35 percent of managerial roles and earned, on average, 88 percent of men’s wages. The study further revealed that women held just 21 percent of board positions and constituted 19 percent of entrepreneurs.

An annual review conducted by Canadian security regulators found that, in 2021, the number of women in boardrooms and executive positions in technology are still not on par with their contemporaries in other industries. The review placed the tech sector at the bottom for female C-suite executives.

Diversity problems and lack of representation are felt across Canada and across intersectionalities, with women of colour often facing greater barriers compared to their counterparts. A 2021 report from The Prosperity Project and KPMG Canada pointed to a lack of visible minorities, including racialized women, in leadership positions in Canada’s largest organizations.

Lack of inclusion, unclear parental leave still hampering retention of Canadian women in VC

In a recent conversation with BetaKit, Roxanne Leduc, a Canadian Women in VC (CWVC) board member and founder and CEO of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultancy Cap Inclusive, said LPs and the VCs they back have focused less of their efforts on inclusion—and this is likely why some Canadian VC funds are struggling to retain the women and visible minorities they hire.

According to BDC Capital’s first national D&I reporting survey from 2022, women make up at least 50 percent of fresh hires and promotions at venture firms, indicating that Canadian VCs are taking strides on the gender diversity front from a hiring and advancement standpoint.

But despite this progress, data collected indicates that Canadian investors were struggling to retain women even then. This finding could further support the argument that many VC firms have yet to create truly inclusive environments for women.

And while the number of women in venture capital is growing, there is still room for improvement when it comes to compensation and the amount of money that goes into women-led funds. The data shows a continued trend from years past, as the 2022 report from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), conducted alongside Diversio, pointed to the age-old story of some progress but not enough.

Women, Indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities remain significantly underrepresented in Canada’s tech sector

The 2023 Diversity in Tech Dashboard by TAP Network revealed persistent gender pay disparities across all job levels, with men consistently outearning women. The discrepancy varies by role, ranging from seven percent to 18 percent, with the largest gap of 18 percent identified at the Management level. At the executive level, where women make up only 28 percent of positions, the pay gap stands at seven percent.

Women represent 36.9 percent of the workforce in Canada’s tech sector, a slight increase from last year’s 35.8 percent. However, this figure still significantly trails the 50.83 percent of the population identified as women according to the 2021 Canadian census. Men constitute 62.5 percent of the sector, while non-binary and other genders account for a marginal 0.6 percent.

These findings followed a 2020 report that pulled together public disclosure documents of 594 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which found that although the presence of women on the boards of some Canadian companies has been slowly increasing, there is still a notable lack of visible minorities, Indigenous people, and people with disabilities. These reports resonate with data going back to 2017, when a #MoveTheDial report explored a wide range of gender inequity issues in the tech world, noting that women comprise just 13 percent of the average tech company’s executive team.

The under-representation of women in tech is particularly true in British Columbia. A 2019 report from Minerva BC found that just 26 percent of board members in the companies surveyed were women. Women also accounted for just 23 percent of available executive positions among those companies surveyed.

A survey of the challenges women founders face when fundraising (and how to overcome them)

In 2023, PwC Canada conducted interviews with 40 successful women founders from 25 different countries to explore their first-hand experiences and perceptions of fundraising, from seed rounds through to Series D and beyond, and what advice they would give to other women entrepreneurs following a similar path.

The study’s authors made five key recommendations for overcoming the barriers facing women founders seeking capital.

Women in Canada’s tech sector often face unique barriers to raising capital. A study from the Conference Board of Canada found that women have a harder time raising capital due in part to the investor biases they face. 

The study found that, compared to men, women reported it took longer to raise Series A financing, requiring more pitches to do so. The survey also reported differences in the way people of different genders pitch to investors, how those pitches are received, access to networks, and pools of capital.

High rate of mental health conditions in women entrepreneurs “alarming,” reports FLIK study

Despite efforts by technology companies to improve gender equality and parity in the workplace, research from SAP Canada in 2019 found that an increasing number of women in the country have a bleak outlook on the industry. Nearly half of the female students and young professionals surveyed said they do not believe tech companies really want to hire women.

More than half of women entrepreneurs surveyed for a study in 2021 reported that they had struggled with mental health issues. The same study also noted that of the 130 female founders surveyed globally, 95.2 percent said they’d suffered from anxiety during rounds of seed funding.

Fifty-two percent of the women and non-binary respondents to the study reported dealing with mental health issues.

The report found a generally unsustainable lifestyle of anxiety and burnout for female founders as they grapple with issues ranging from the stresses of raising a family while trying simultaneously to raise millions in seed money, to finding time for their health and social life.

The wait is over for women entrepreneurs

On a more positive note, Fatima Zaidi, co-founder and CEO of Quill, penned an op-ed discussing the need to speed up the “glacial pace of progress” in Canadian tech. Noting women who are taking matters into their own hands with new initiatives, Zaidi argues that the acceleration of women leadership is “inevitable.”

“The good news is that instead of being tired of waiting, women are taking action for themselves,” Zaidi writes.

Digital Finance Institute names Canada’s top 50 women in FinTech for 2019

Speaking of women taking action: innovation, demographic changes, and widening market demands have helped FinTechs disrupt traditional financial services. In light of the explosion of FinTech activity in Canada over the last few years, the Digital Finance Institute highlighted some of the key women behind this growth.

In 2017 and 2019, BetaKit also highlighted women and non-binary individuals in Canada’s tech community building great companies, creating robust networks, and generally kicking ass.

The individuals on these lists are just some of many who are inspiring others like them to take risks and think big.

#MoveTheDial, Feminuity offer strategies for companies at all stages to retain women in tech

As the tech community works to create a more inclusive and diverse culture, a playbook created by #MoveTheDial and Feminuity focused on actionable strategies tech companies can take to retain women workers. The playbook features insights and strategies that tech companies at various stages can adopt to increase inclusion and engagement.

Community Survey and Reporting Framework

The first step in understanding diversity in a company is tracking. In past years, many companies have complained that they did not know how to even start that process. Steph Little, a former human resources manager at Hubba, and currently a senior consultant for Bright + Early, had a solution.

In 2017, Hubba released an open source framework to help companies track diversity within their teams. The framework lists best practices for building an internal survey, including methods for framing questions (being specific vs. oversimplifying), the importance of the ‘other’ option, and breaking down demographics by a variety of factors instead of just male or female.

This article was originally published on March 6, 2020, and updated March 8, 2024.

Feature image courtesy Unsplash. Photo by WOCinTech.



Founded in 2012. BetaKit is built for the people tracking, financing, and building the next generation of Canadian business. Our mission is to connect, interrogate, and inform Canadian tech.

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