Changing the Narrative: A New ICTC Program Empowers Women-Owned Social Enterprises


Canada has some of the most highly skilled workers in the world. So, how do digital tech companies still lack skilled workers? And how are some entrepreneurs with compelling ideas and capabilities not securing the funding to launch their startups?

One part of it is that Canada underutilizes its diverse, skilled workforce.  

Women still face formidable challenges in the workplace, particularly in male-dominated fields like tech. And racialized women entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles.

Recent ICTC research found that many Black women entrepreneurs launching tech startups feel "not taken seriously" during crucial moments such as pitching or negotiating deals. Statistically, the odds are stacked against women, as 90–98% of venture capital funds are awarded to men.  

This isn’t new information. Even as the growth of the digital economy outpaces other sectors, and even as research shows that racial and gender diversity in the workplace and business community is good for profitability and society at large, changing attitudes can be stubbornly slow.

What’s needed is for people to care about this critical issue by putting the spotlight on this specific equity-deserving group and rallying their inherent resources, expertise, and determination to achieve success.  

A new ICTC program called Changing the Narrative—Unleashing the Full Potential of Women-Owned Enterprises attempts to do just that. Its focus is on Black women and minority groups, including official language minority communities (OLMCs) who own or are launching social enterprises.

Unlike traditional for-profit companies, which prioritize growth and profitability, social enterprises prioritize social issues, environmental concerns, or other community needs. A social enterprise—which can be structured as a for-profit company, a not-for-profit or something in between—harnesses the power of business to create a positive and sustainable impact.  

Social enterprises often emphasize connection and community. When owned by racialized women, their potential for raising awareness of the systemic challenges facing this demographic and the solutions for these hurdles can have a far-reaching impact.  


Changing the Narrative  


ICTC’s federal government-funded Changing the Narrative program addresses the systemic barriers faced by Black women and women from minority groups (including official language minority communities) when launching or owning social enterprises. Its wider goal is to foster economic security and prosperity for women in Canada's digital economy.  

Over the program’s 29-month run, it will tackle specific issues facing women-owned enterprises spanning five provinces—Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec, and Alberta—and engage with 500 women-owned businesses, 150 mentors, 36 subject-matter experts, and up to 10 community organizations that support Black women and minority groups.

A core obstacle facing Black women entrepreneurs is a lack of critical numbers. This makes it difficult to establish networks, access mentorship opportunities, and gain visibility in the tech ecosystem. Networking challenges can lead to limited exposure to potential investors and access to venture capital. This absence of racialized women entrepreneurs among those who hold the purse strings of venture capital can lead to ingrained biases.  


Pitch Events and Program Supports


In response, the program’s pitch events will allow women-owned enterprises to showcase their innovations and ideas to potential investors. Creating visibility and opportunities for collaboration and pitch events will challenge perceptions and create better opportunities for women in business.

Moreover, a cornerstone of ICTC’s Changing the Narrative program is a hub that offers the following: 

  • Mentorship opportunities and knowledge exchange
  • Networking and connectivity among women entrepreneurs, mentors, and experts
  • Initiatives that create spaces for women entrepreneurs to connect with industry professionals, potential partners, and investors.  

As part of the program, ICTC will also conduct groundbreaking research into the digital and green economies, teasing out indicators and catalysts for success at all stages of social entrepreneurship. This should provide fodder for long-term systemic change.

Program partnerships with business experts, successful entrepreneurs from all walks of life, and community organizations will play a crucial role in Changing the Narrative. Some of ICTC’s partners for the program include:  

  • Canada Startup Association  
  • Startup Canada  
  • Black Founders Network
  • Groupe 3737  

The collective efforts of ICTC and its partners are expected to amplify the ability of the program to affect systemic change and help Black women entrepreneurs claim their space in Canada’s digital economy.  


ICTC’s Changing the Narrative program was announced on February 22, 2024, at a special Toronto event coinciding with Black History Month. The event was titled Black Women Leading the Way in Canada's Digital Economy and was attended by federal Minister Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, who made a presentation to the audience.