The Scotiabank Women Initiative

The Scotiabank Women Initiative has collaborated with Dr. Barbara Orser and Dr. Allan Riding of the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. Together, we have created learning aids designed to assist with the development of your woman-led, woman-owned business.

Women-focused Capital Funds (WFCF) are typically pools of capital or portfolios ‘for women, by women’ that use a gender lens to invest in women-led businesses. Obviously, we want to help increase women entrepreneurs’ access to capital but there is also an interest in educating women about investment processes and options. This learning aid will help you understand the merits of WFCFs, provide common strategies and will help you set goals and evaluate perceived strengths and limitations. There is also a robust check list of the criteria for assessing WFCFs, whether you’re an investor or an entrepreneur.


The goals of WFCFs vary and can include:

  1. Increasing women entrepreneurs’ access to financial capital
  2. Educating women about investment
  3. Mobilizing expertise to support early-stage founders and technology
  4. Creating communities of like-minded investors and entrepreneurs
  5. Leveraging competitive advantages of diverse executive teams
  6. Addressing the shortcomings of traditional investment firms
  7. Recognizing the value of women-led businesses
  8. Countering unconscious biases and gender role stereotypes
  9. Deploying women’s ‘untapped’ economic wealth


Bolstered by online marketing, women-focused capital funds (WFCFs) are evolving quickly. Most funds target growth-oriented start-ups or novice investors and make reference to women or females. Other funds are more gender-inclusive in their approach. Some support under-represented individuals such as Gaingels, a LGBTQ-focused angel group.

WFCFs are also differentiated by legal form, type of capital, target businesses (e.g., non-tech or high tech, early or later stage ventures), criteria for investing, timing and exit methods. Assessing the social and economic impact of WFCFs is challenging. At this time there are no established metrics or sources of reliable data that employ a gender lens to assess WFCFs.


Download the learing aid PDF to begin your assessment today.