• Sarah Weston

Nova Scotia Government Invests $5 Million in Women's Venture Capital Fund

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

( Above : Jessica Alexander, co-leader of the Green Party of Nova Scotia, says supporting women in business is independent of child care or other women's issues )

The Nova Scotia government has recently announced a $5 million dollar contribution to Sandpiper Ventures, the first venture capital fund of the Atlantic Women's Venture Fund. Former Premier Stephen McNeil, responsible for the contribution, states “We know the pandemic has led to a decline in women’s employment, at a time when we need more women entrepreneurs. Sandpiper Ventures will help women take their innovative ideas to market.” The investment is intended to stimulate further contributions to the fund by others, and to assist in developing Nova Scotia's technology and digital start-up ecosystem. Sandpiper Ventures is centred on initiatives developed and led by women.

The Province's contribution has received criticism from local advocates who contend that further investment and restructuring of provincial childcare would more effectively increase the participation of mothers in the labour force and provide more substantial economic returns on investment. Some community organizations are demanding that current Premier Ian Rankin rescind the fund. In response to these criticisms, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has noted that more than $30 million in COVID-related recovery funding has been provided to the childhood sector, along with $70 million in grants to support regulated childcare.

Green Party of Nova Scotia Deputy Leader Jessica Alexander points out that to her, these are separate issues. “The goal of the fund isn't to increase women's labour force participation rates, but to fund tech startups that could be otherwise disadvantaged.” Further, “the fund is certainly necessary and timely, and the founders' drive is to not only to level the playing field but to change the rules entirely...sometimes we need a whole new game.”

The need for a new game is based on existing inequalities - “There's a bit of a market distortion when the network effects of business interactions disproportionately benefit more men than women. Women are generally the primary caregivers to children, and men can more often meet, travel, and create business opportunities while moms are home with bathtime and homework....[these are] unequal ways that business incubation possibilities can favour men.” In considering the long-term financial disadvantages faced by women in current conditions, Jessica sees this fund as a “good start in the right direction” to establish equal opportunities in business development.

In considering the wider issue of labour force participation and in cautioning against women and children being “primarily thought of in economic terms,” Jessica notes that a guaranteed livable income would benefit a broad demographic, increase the number of people to be paid for caregiving, and increase the number of people who could use that money on childcare.

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