gender equity index
News Briefs

The Forum Launches First-of-its-Kind Index to Boost Financial Access and Inclusion for Women Entrepreneurs Nationwide

The Forum, a Canadian charity that supports women entrepreneurs, announced the launch of the AFIA DEI Index. AFIA DEI Index is a First-of-Its-Kind nationwide initiative to address the ongoing business funding gap for women entrepreneurs. The initiative has a particular emphasis on accelerating financial inclusion and access for Black and Indigenous women, other Women of Color and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.

“At The Forum, our purpose is to support women entrepreneurs to thrive and have supported over 14,000 entrepreneurs to date. We see that a profound gap still exists in financing women-led businesses, especially in ways that meet their unique needs. Women operate enterprises with 53 percent less capital than men. Less than three percent of venture funding goes to women founders. Negligible amounts of venture funding going to Indigenous and Black women, or other Women of Color,” says Paulina Cameron, CEO, The Forum. “We need to address the personal, societal and economic costs of undercapitalization. We created the AFIA DEI Index to engage funders across the country in closing the funding gap. Together, we build a new vision for how women entrepreneurs are supported.”

DEI index

The AFIA DEI Index was created for Canadian funders, including banks, credit unions, development lenders and venture capital firms. The Index provides a package of research-backed tools, resources and training to benchmark against leading practices and build team capacity. Funders receive access to an Index of leading practices for DEI and Reconciliation in business funding, guidance and recommendations for action and team training on women’s entrepreneurship and inclusive customer service.

“Advancing gender equality isn’t just good social policy, it’s good economic policy too. We know that women from BIPOC communities face additional challenges on their path to economic success. Our government does focus on dismantling these barriers. Everyone should have a fair shot at success. This is why we will continue to make investments to build a stronger and more inclusive Canada,” said the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth.

The AFIA DEI Index initiative is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) and developed by The Forum in collaboration with a Working Group of funders, diverse entrepreneur groups, women’s enterprise organizations and DEI and Reconciliation experts with lived experience.

Registration for Canadian funders and more information available at

Focus Group Findings: What diverse women are saying about access to funding

In October and November 2022, The Forum leveraged its community of women entrepreneurs across the country to run three focus groups with BIPOC women entrepreneurs. We aimed to learn about their experiences in trying to access business funding. Key takeaways included a frequent lack of understanding among funders about BIPOC women entrepreneurs’ businesses and inherent biases in the approval processes. These served as insights for the AFIA DEI Index.

Two-thirds of participants in the focus group were located in Eastern Canada. The other third lives between Western and Atlantic Canada. Seventy-eight percent of the participants identified as BIPOC: 36 percent as Black, 7 percent as Indigenous, 21 percent as East Asian and 15 percent as South or Southeast Asian.

To learn more, visit What Diverse Women are Telling Us about Access to Funding. For advice shared by BIPOC Women Entrepreneurs for venture capital, private investors, government organizations and funders, visit here.

About The Forum

A national registered Canadian charity, The Forum energizes, educates, mentors and connects self-identified women entrepreneurs to strengthen economies and build thriving businesses and communities. Since 2002, The Forum has supported over 14,000 women entrepreneurs. The Forum serves 1,600+ women from 193 unique communities across Canada annually through its programming and events. Visit

Looking for more funding? Check out October Grant Opportunities.

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