Sept. 18, 2020

UCalgary and The51 partner to build a critical mass of female investors and leaders

Financial Feminism Investing Lab, housed at Haskayne School of Business, expected to launch first offering in 2021

Women represent 51 per cent of the population but their wealth is underutilized, and they receive significantly less venture capital investment than men. Since 2014, only 10 per cent of Canadian venture capital investment deals have gone to companies founded by women. This results in poorer returns, less mutual wealth creation and missed opportunities for social and environmental impact.

The University of Calgary and The51 have partnered with the aim to democratize access to women-led capital for women-led businesses by establishing the Financial Feminism Investing Lab.

“There is a lack of opportunity for women to mobilize as leaders in investing. Through this pilot project we are looking to activate the future of female capital,” says Shelley Kuipers, co-founder, The51. “Calgary is an important centre for finance and we feel it is imperative to lead in the financial feminism movement.”

  • Photo above, from left: Keri Damen, executive director, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking; Jim Dewald, dean, Haskayne School of Business; Shelley Kuipers, founder, The51; Alice Reimer, founder, The51; Judy Fairburn, founder, The51.

At 30 per cent, Alberta has the highest percentage of tech startups that are founded or co-founded by women, making it a leader across Canada. As all provinces work to diversify and expand in the technology space, investing in a new critical mass of female investors and leaders can help drive the next economic wave.

The Financial Feminism Investing Lab is a pilot that will develop content, and ultimately teach the foundations of early-stage investing. The non-credit program will provide a background to relevant social and economic factors that influence women’s access to capital. The lab’s primary home at UCalgary will be the Haskayne School of Business, but this innovative learning experience will be supported by the participation of multiple groups across the university including the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovate Calgary.

“The Financial Feminism Investing Lab will complement UCalgary’s entrepreneur development activities, as it will help develop the capacities of the investor community,” says Keri Damen, executive director, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “We will be leveraging the network of entrepreneurs connected with the university, to provide insight into the real-life funding needs of early-stage startups.”

The team will begin immediately on industry research, content production and curriculum design, with program delivery expected in early 2021. Upon completion of the non-credit course, students will have an understanding of the economic and social value that can be generated through investment in female-founded organizations.

“The51 and the Haskayne School of Business share a vision of making Calgary the go-to place across Canada in financial feminism,” says Dr. Jim Dewald, dean, Haskayne School of Business. “We are driven to expand our research in this area and we are keenly interested in attracting more female students to finance. This pilot is an important step in bringing people along into this shared vision.”

This project is part of the Canadian Women’s Foundation Investment Readiness Program funded by the Government of Canada's Social Innovation/Social Finance Strategy. This funding kicks off a formalized partnership between The51 and UCalgary with intentions to continue beyond this initial pilot on other initiatives to advance financial feminism.