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The start of the pandemic signalled a time for change for venture capitalist Nicole Marchand.

“I had worked in capital markets on Bay Street for the last 15 years and when COVID-19 hit, like a lot of other people, I took a step back and thought about where I wanted to focus my time and effort,” says Ms. Marchard, founder and CEO of Toronto-based impact investing firm SnowCap Ventures.

Launched last year, SnowCap supports mainly women-led businesses in two specific sectors: plant-based foods and pet care.

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“Women bring a different perspective, a different work ethic and half the world is made up of women,” she says. “So, it’s important to have services, technologies and ideas that reflect this and that support other women as well.”

The concept of women investors and venture capitalists supporting women-led business has never seemed more relevant – the pandemic dealt a blow to the already meagre amount of venture-capital funding that ends up in the hands of women entrepreneurs.

According to U.S. data firm Crunchbase, for the first eight months of 2021, companies with solely female founders raised just 2.2 per cent of all venture funding, a share that was lower than any of the previous five calendar years.

Having more women in leadership positions in venture capital and more financial initiatives geared toward women-led businesses are ways to combat these numbers, says Lauren Robinson, founding and general partner at early-stage venture development firm Highline Beta.

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“The secret to building a better tomorrow isn’t just about having the skills to navigate an ever-changing landscape,” she explains. “It’s about which individuals are leading the way.”

Getting more women to the table

A 2019 report by Female Funders (owned by Highline Beta) found that just 15.2 per cent of partners in Canadian venture firms are women.

“We know for a fact that when there is a woman partner at the table advocating for [funding], there is a higher likelihood that the investment will go forward for women entrepreneurs,” Ms. Robinson says.

Indeed, when women venture capitalists invest in a company, it is twice as likely to be a female-led or female-founded company, according to a 2019 report by All Raise and PitchBook.

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Meanwhile, women’s share of wealth is growing rapidly. Ms. Robinson notes a recent statistic from Richardson Wealth which reports that by 2024, the privately held wealth of Canadian women is estimated to rise from $1.2-trillion to $2.7-trillion, representing 50 per cent of the country’s total private wealth.

“So, we have to ask, if we’re dealing with 50 per cent of the wealth in the hands of women, how are we making sure that balance is reflected at the entrepreneurial stage, at the decision-maker stage [and] the capital allocation stage? Because that’s where there is an equity issue,” she says.

The rise of impact

The growth of impact investing is a sign of shifts in the investing and capital space.

Marissa Bronfman is chief brand officer at impact investment firm Kizmet, which launched last month. The fund specializes in supporting startups with positive social and environmental impact in the health, food and technology spaces.

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“Women are building businesses that are good for people, are good for the planet,” says Ms. Bronfman. “Women think about the impact their products or services have, so when we fund women – and the numbers support this – they use their funds better, they’re hiring other women, and we also see that those products and services perform better and are more inclusive.”

According to a recent report by Boston Consulting Group, “businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue – more than twice as much per dollar invested – than those founded by men, making women-owned companies better investments for financial backers.”

“In every country in the world, when we give money to women, [their businesses] perform better,” Ms. Bronfman says. “It’s not up for discussion, we know it from the numbers. So we’re just trying to close that huge, huge [funding] gap.”

Ask Women and Work

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Q: I’m in a competitive work environment – very male-heavy – and I’m not breaking through. My colleagues aren’t rude or dismissive, but they aren’t paying attention to my contributions. They are all very big personalities who tend to take up a lot of the space in the room. I am not an extroverted person by nature, but I am good at my job and I’m worried my boss isn’t going to see that. How can I make myself heard?

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We asked Toronto-based clarity coach Dayana Cadet to field this one:

Oof, I’ve been there. You said your colleagues aren’t rude or dismissive – why not tell them how you feel and make them your allies? Before your next meeting, try reaching out to the one(s) you feel the most comfortable with and say, ‘Hey, can you do me a favour? I’ve noticed that my voice tends to get drowned out at these meetings. Can you have my back?’

This could look like:

The idea here is to bring awareness to the issue and set the tone for future meetings. If you’re comfortable and it comes up again, you can even try adding a little levity to the situation. Maybe you laugh and say, ‘Love the enthusiasm, I’m barely able to get a word in edgewise!’

Of course, this all depends on the dynamics between all involved. If you don’t think any of the above would go over well, I’d suggest speaking to your boss directly. Frame it as a mentorship opportunity in your next one-on-one meeting and say, ‘I feel like I’m not always heard in our team meetings, do you have any suggestions?’ Or, follow up on your contributions in general to ensure your boss is able to hear your great ideas. For example, ‘What are your thoughts on [idea]?’ or ‘I’m really excited about [idea]!’

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