White Paper

Redefining Success: Overcoming Systemic Barriers to Black Canadian Employment and Entrepreneurship

Redefine Conference – April 27-28, 2023 – Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Executive Summary

Black Canadians confront deeply rooted systemic barriers that impede their full economic potential and suppress their entrepreneurial aspirations. These obstacles manifest in alarmingly persistent employment gaps, where Black Canadians endure disproportionately higher unemployment rates compared to the national average (Statistics Canada, 2021). Even when employed, a stark wage disparity persists, with Black Canadians often earning significantly less than their non-Black counterparts in similar roles (Statistics Canada, 2021).  Furthermore, Black Canadians are severely underrepresented in leadership positions within corporations and on boards (Gueye, 2023). The challenges extend to the entrepreneurial realm, where Black-owned businesses face hurdles in securing capital,  navigating complex regulations, and obtaining contracts. These systemic barriers collectively stifle the economic progress and entrepreneurial spirit of the Black community in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2023).

The 2023 Redefine Conference 2023 spotlighted these inequities and barriers. The conference united Black community leaders, business owners, policymakers, and allies to examine the root causes of these challenges and to generate transformative solutions. To address systemic barriers faced by Black Canadians, several key recommendations were made at the conference. Targeted government initiatives should incentivize the hiring, retention, and promotion of Black Canadians, with diversity targets and accountability mechanisms implemented within government and government-funded bodies.  Furthermore, large corporations must be held accountable through mandated diversity and inclusion reporting, along with incentives for mentorship programs connecting Black professionals to senior leadership, promoting pathways to executive positions.  Empowerment of Black entrepreneurs is crucial, requiring dedicated funding streams, mentorship networks, streamlined regulations, and simplified access to government procurement opportunities.

These recommendations represent a starting point for dismantling systemic barriers and unlocking the full economic potential of Black Canadians. This paper elaborates on the extent of the challenges, the insights gained from the 2023 Redefine Conference, and a set of actions necessary to redefine success and build a truly equitable Canada.

1. Introduction

1.1 Problem Space

Despite Canada’s reputation as a multicultural nation, systemic barriers continue to obstruct the full economic participation and advancement of  Black Canadians. Redefine Conference 2023 provided a space for experts, black community workers, and entrepreneurs to collectively redefine the future of Canada to a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society. It aimed to explore the current state of underrepresented talent in Canada and the obstacles to a balanced representation in the Canadian work landscape (Houle 2020). Furthermore, it was an opportunity to identify solutions for maximizing the potential of the underrepresented talent in Canada as a collective. These barriers manifest within the workplace and the entrepreneurial landscape. In the workplace, Black Canadians face underrepresentation in leadership positions, unconscious biases throughout hiring and promotion processes, and the persistent burden of microaggressions that create an unwelcoming environment (James and Turner 2017).  This translates to limited career growth, decreased earning potential, and a psychological toll that impedes long-term success. The world of entrepreneurship presents additional challenges. Black-owned businesses often struggle to access the funding and capital necessary for launching and scaling their ventures (Okeke-Ihejirika et al. 2023). Mentorship networks, so vital for providing guidance and opening doors, are frequently less accessible to Black entrepreneurs.  Further, systemic biases can hinder their ability to secure essential resources and support compared to their non-Black counterparts.

These obstacles result in stark economic disparities. Black Canadians experience higher unemployment rates, lower average incomes, and a persistent wealth gap compared to the general Canadian population (Block, Galabuzi, and Tranjan 2019). The potential for innovation, job creation, and overall economic contribution from the Black community is being stifled as a result. The lack of black representation among the Canadian workforce and business owners is an inherently systemic issue. Thus, this problem is not just limited to isolated incidents or individuals; rather, it stems from interrelated societal barriers and discriminatory mindsets that persist in the Canadian occupational realm (Agocs & Jain 2001 & Banting and Thompson 2021). Therefore, in this conference, we examined the problem from different angles. We gathered across-sector experts to identify the challenges individual workers or entrepreneurs face from the “Close-up view”, and we analyzed the systemic societal barriers from the “Landscape perspective”. Furthermore, we introduced how each stakeholder could contribute, either as an employee, entrepreneur, nonprofit, philanthropist, or government representative, to accomplish these goals.

1.2 What’s There for You?

As black workers and entrepreneurs, what are the barriers we face in accessing equal employment or advancement opportunities in our career journeys? And how can we empower ourselves to address them? This paper therefore presents valuable learnings for BIPOC job seekers and entrepreneurs based on the Redefine conference. It also highlights insights, strategies, and opportunities for philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and governments to better support the black community. This paper argues that a paradigm shift is essential. Systemic barriers rooted in historical and ongoing discrimination must be dismantled to foster a genuinely equitable and inclusive Canadian workforce and business landscape where Black Canadians can thrive. This requires deliberate, multi-sector action to address the specific challenges Black Canadians face. Targeted initiatives, policy changes, and a fundamental shift in corporate culture are necessary to create a level playing field where talent, regardless of race, can contribute to Canada’s economic and social prosperity.

2. Landscape of Systemic and Intertwined Obstacles

2.1. Discriminatory biases

It is a well-known fact that stereotyping, generalization, and discrimination are ingrained in our socioeconomic systems. They certainly have left their mark on our mindsets and subconscious. Historical, cultural, and socioeconomic biases have led to implicit prejudices in all human beings. Therefore, we must pay close attention to our biased assumptions and be aware of their impact on our decisions. Unknowingly and unintentionally, all human beings can show discriminatory behavior; thus, instead of shaming, we must move toward care, understanding, and reconciliation to have a lasting impact on the system.

Governments and nonprofits can educate the public about these hidden implicit biases through educational programs or awareness campaigns. Companies must educate their staff. HR workers, specifically, should be trained and retrained to avoid letting unconscious biases impact their decisions. They should be equipped with emotional intelligence. And most importantly, companies should hire diverse HR employees to make the decisions in hiring processes more inclusive.

2.2 Limited infrastructure for capacity building

Infrastructure and capacity building are essential for changing the enabling conditions in the labour market that reinforce the underrepresentation of black talent. By establishing supportive organizations, such as accelerators and incubators, and by providing educational programs, training, mentorship, and financial support tailored to the needs of BIPOC individuals, we can create an environment that empowers them to overcome barriers and succeed. Even though we have progressed in this endeavour in Canada during the past decade, we need much more intentional support to impact the entire system. 

Furthermore, capacity-building initiatives equip BIPOC individuals with the skills, knowledge, and support necessary to navigate challenges. Empowered individuals can then support their community and give back to the system. Thus, we need to financially support the existing organizations and fund new ones. We must distribute our efforts while supporting the few groups of individuals who are often willing to receive minimum salaries for this hard and valuable work.

2.3 Shifting the Blame

The lack of BIPOC talent representation problem we discussed has already been researched thoroughly. We have been aware of the systemic barriers and developed policies and incentives accordingly. However, these problems remain intact. Therefore, it is clear that we have been struggling with implementing possible solutions and actualizing diversity in working places. We believe this is due to the lack of accountability in our systems. 

Across sector actors and the municipal and federal governments tend to shift blame or the responsibilities to one another. It has slowed down the systemic transformation process; however, it is more complex than demanding accountability or enforcement from the government. People tend to pass the buck to one another because taking responsibility and admitting the shortcomings around inclusivity in our business makes us feel guilty and fear judgment. So, instead of holding ourselves accountable for our small role in the lack of people with disabilities, BIPOC or black representation, we shift the blame to one another. This stagnating feedback loop is hindering us from moving beyond research to implementation and realizing change in the system.

3. Overcoming Information Inaccessibility

3.1 General Overview

Despite the wide array of resources available to the black community, many are still unaware of these options and opportunities for career advancement. This lack of awareness stems from a complex interplay of factors, including limited circulation of information within Black networks, insufficient targeted outreach by support organizations, and a sense of discouragement that may arise from past experiences of systemic barriers.These opportunities include funding aids, loans, acceleration programs, mentorships and training, networking platforms, and more. People of African descent, whether residing in Canada or contemplating migration, are missing out on opportunities and need to be informed. We encourage you to share your knowledge with those within your circle. In this spirit, we have listed a range of organizations that intentionally target black workers and entrepreneurs, provide assistance and maximize their chances of occupational success. You can find this list of Resources at the end of this document. Moreover, we like to share more about several fields with existing talent gaps in Canada. Our experts recommend considering these options if you are beginning your career journey or considering pivoting.

3.2 Sectoral Opportunities

3.2.1 Tech

With recent revolutionary technological advancements, we expect limited tech skills and digital illiteracy to drastically disqualify us from opportunities for employment or entrepreneurship (Frenette & Frank, 2020). However, it will also lead to a massive economic gap (Vartanova & Gladkova, 2019). Our experts highly recommend pursuing careers in this field for the black communities’ future prosperity. Canada has a significant talent gap when it comes to the tech industry, with over 50% of businesses finding it hard to find talents with digital proficiency. It is time to take advantage of this opportunity and acquire proficiency in different programming languages. Some recommended career path in Tech are:

  • Data Science – Harness the power of data analysis to inform business decisions and solve complex problems.
  • Cybersecurity – Become a digital defender, protecting organizations and individuals from cyber threats.
  • Software Development – Design and build the cutting-edge applications that shape our world.
3.2.2 The Future of Care

Canada’s aging population is creating a critical demand for healthcare professionals (Crimmins et al., 2017), making this sector a vital pathway to opportunity, job security, and community impact. Several provinces have established supportive pipelines to guide individuals into healthcare careers.  Beyond the well-known roles of doctors and nurses, a vast array of options exists that are crucial to the industry’s function. Consider these in-demand healthcare careers:

  • Medical Technologists – Perform and analyze essential patient tests, driving diagnostic processes.
  • Mental Health Professionals – Offer vital support for the increasing need for mental health services.
  • Home Care Workers – Provide care and support in patients’ homes, serving a demographic that’s rapidly growing.
3.2.3 The Skilled Workforce Gap (Skilled Trades)

Canada’s labour shortage in skilled-trade sectors like plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work is increasing rapidly. With experienced workers nearing retirement, there is high demand for young talent. Skill-trade careers offer the opportunity to turn expertise into thriving businesses and create more job opportunities. We should seize the chance to contribute to the growth of these industries while creating our own path to success.

3.3.4 Breaking into Finance

Canada’s finance market faces a labour shortage, creating career opportunities in various roles. Beyond banking, there is demand for bookkeepers, accountants, financial analysts, and investment bankers. It is essential to promote BIPOC representation in the venture capital market to empower and financially support the black community and black-owned businesses. We must embrace this chance to contribute, bring fresh perspectives, and shape Canada’s finance sector while advancing our own careers.

3.2.5 Thriving in Canada’s Creative Economy

The talent gap in Canada’s creative industry is an incredible opportunity for aspiring individuals to pursue careers in this thriving field. In addition to front-end positions, the skill demand in Canada’s creative industry extends to vital back-end roles, including audio, visual technology, green screen, and sound technicians. This skill demand extends beyond the front end, encompassing essential back-end roles such as audio, visual technology, green screen, and sound technicians.

4. Educational Barriers for Black Canadians

Canada’s 2021 census indicates that about 67% of the black population between 25 to 64 years old hold a postsecondary diploma, certificate, or degree. About 32% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which represents a notable growth of roughly 5% compared to the 2016 results (Statics Canada, 2022). However, in 2016, about 94% of black youth from the 15 to 25 age group said they would like to get a bachelor’s degree or higher. Just 60% believed they could (Statistics Canada, 2020). If we assume the high school students in 2016, after five years in the 2021 census, were among the 20 to 24 years-old group, only 40% achieved this goal and obtained a postsecondary diploma, certificate, or degree (Statics Canada, 2022). 

Several factors contribute to black communities’ educational gap in Canada, including financial struggles, discriminatory biases, and even cultural values. However, regardless of our skill sets, a lack of educational credentials disqualifies many of us during the HR screening process. It also limits our access to entrepreneurship support from already available funding institutions and acceleration programs. Some of the contributing factors to the educational gap in black communities are as follows:

  • Financial constraints 
  • Inaccessibility to information and resources
  • Lack of representation at educational institutes
  • Cultural inclination to pursue certain careers
  • Low self-confidence

DasGupta, et al. 2020 aptly captures another impact of the educational barrier and/or inequality that black people face as follows: 

“One challenge for Black students is the lack of Black teachers in the classroom. Recent studies show that having a Black teacher can result in a 13% increase in enrolment in postsecondary schooling and decrease the probability of dropping out by 29%. Yet, while Black people make up 3.5% of Canada’s population, only 1.8% of teachers are Black. This lack of Black representation makes a difference in multiple ways. For one, Black teachers are less likely to use language in the classroom that negatively labels Black students.”  

The educational barriers facing Black Canadians create a cyclical disadvantage.  Lack of financial support, limited access to information, underrepresentation in educational institutions, and systemic biases all contribute to a persistent achievement gap which not only limits opportunities for individuals but also has profound consequences for the entire Black community. DasGupta et al. underscores a critical point: the absence of Black educators has a profound impact on the educational trajectories and self-perception of Black students. This highlights the urgent need for systemic change within the education system itself.  We must take active steps to address this lack of representation. To ensure a future where Black talent is fully realized, we must dismantle these barriers and create pathways for educational success. This means investing in targeted scholarships, improving access to guidance and support services, and actively nurturing Black representation within educational institutions at all levels. Educational institutions must prioritize recruiting a diverse teaching force, including more Black educators. This involves proactively reaching out to Black communities and creating inclusive hiring practices. The existing few Black educators also need dedicated support and mentorship programs to ensure their retention and advancement within the system.

5. From Awareness to Action: Empowering Black Excellence in the Canadian Workforce

5.1 Addressing Individual and Community Challenges

To address the issue, it is important to first become informed. Connecting with organizations and institutions that support education is crucial. In Canada, there are several BIPOC educational funding institutions ready to provide financial aid for black students. Additionally, nonprofit organizations offer training programs and certification courses, which can be found on the resources page. Expanding skills in career paths with available opportunities like healthcare, skilled trades, technology, finance, and creative entertainment is essential. Also, pursuing careers in educational institutions, universities, and colleges will help diversify the education system to bridge the educational gap for black students.

Furthermore, we must be mindful of parental influences on career decisions. Some black communities traditionally steer children towards specific professions like medicine or accounting. This limits career choices and undermines black students’ confidence to pursue their true passions. As a result, representation in those fields diminishes, reinforcing their exclusivity.

5.2 Limited Funding Opportunities

Black entrepreneurs face funding inaccessibility in Canada due to various factors such as racial discrimination, lack of access to capital, and creditworthiness disparities (Fairlie et al., 2022). We have also encountered black entrepreneurs who struggle with steep interest rates on loans received after thorough evaluations. The lack of funding exacerbates the existing barriers faced by black entrepreneurs, perpetuating systemic inequalities.

5.2.1 What shall we do, as individuals?

Many financial institutions, including Venture Capital firms (VC), accelerators and incubators, and government-backed loan programs, offer various financing strategies, loans and funding for black communities. We have included some examples for your reference in the Resources section. However, it is not just a matter of having these options at hand; we must nurture our confidence, enhance our financial literacy, and proactively approach these organizations. Many of these institutions provide BIPOC advisors. Since they better understand our backgrounds and challenges, it is always a good idea to reach out to them.

5.3 Mentorship Void

Mentorship is critical for the professional growth and development of Black entrepreneurs. However, Black entrepreneurs often do not receive the same level of mentorship support as their counterparts (Samuels & Wilkerson, 2022). This isn’t simply a missed opportunity; studies show the absence of mentorship directly contributes to widening economic inequality for young Black entrepreneurs (Masha et al., 2022). Mentors can provide direction, guidance, and moral support to young entrepreneurs to help them overcome the challenges and difficulties faced in starting and running a business. 

While actively seeking mentorship is crucial, paying it forward is equally important. By becoming mentors ourselves, we not only uplift others but also enhance our own visibility, fostering personal and professional growth. True mentorship transcends simply sharing experiences; it involves offering unwavering moral support and a commitment to reciprocal knowledge exchange. Let’s remember, even without years of experience, we can all empower our community through mentorship. The Resources section of this document includes organizations that provide mentorship opportunities and welcome new mentors.

5.4 Psychological Pressure and Imposter Syndrome 

Entering the workforce as a BIPOC individual, especially in fields like tech, presents unique hurdles. The need for experience, technical and interpersonal skills, a supportive network, and the confidence to excel in interviews are all critical. However, entering workplaces lacking diversity can leave many feeling profoundly isolated. This isolation adds undue pressure on those seeking to express their perspectives and actively reshape work cultures. Furthermore, it significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing imposter syndrome, where one’s abilities are unfairly questioned.

Building a strong support network, both within and outside of the workplace, is crucial. Also, continuous learning and skill development are important for bridging experience gaps and boosting confidence. Advocating for ourselves and actively challenging biases within the workplace can contribute to creating a more inclusive environment. Most importantly, those feelings of isolation and imposter syndrome highlight the importance of seeking out a mentor who understands your experiences; they can provide guidance, support, and help you realize your full potential.

5.5 Lack of Public Education

Many systemic problems arise out of barriers in information flow. Not only informing BIPOC or the black community about available resources for success is limited, but also raising public awareness is persistently a challenge. Public awareness is key in shifting culture and individuals’ mindsets when interacting with black and BIPOC communities. If people are not aware of the lack of BIPOC and people with disabilities representation, they can not act differently. We need to launch campaigns promoting understanding and acceptance of these communities. We need to educate employees, especially the HR workers. To change the system, each individual actor needs to actively and intentionally create opportunities for balanced representation, and without enough public awareness, that is simply not possible.

Governments and community development nonprofits need to launch more campaigns or educational programs. Philanthropists can be very influential by funding public awareness initiatives. Companies and businesses must provide an onboarding opportunity for new BIPOC employees. They must pair new hires with BIPOC mentors who can arrange a seamless onboarding experience. Everyone must strive to educate and inform those within their social network.

6. Impact Analysis

The systemic barriers faced by Black Canadians within the workplace and entrepreneurial landscape have far-reaching and detrimental consequences, extending beyond individual experiences to impact the Canadian economy and broader society. This section analyzes the economic and social costs of the ongoing inequities outlined in the previous sections.

6.1 Economic Impact

  • Lost Productivity: When Black Canadians are underemployed due to hiring bias, denied promotions due to unconscious prejudice, or forced to navigate toxic workplaces, their full potential remains untapped. This translates to a significant loss of productivity for the Canadian economy. Research indicates that systemic workplace discrimination can reduce productivity by as much as 30% (Bagalini 2020), representing a major missed opportunity for innovation and overall economic growth.
  • Reduced Innovation: When diverse voices and perspectives are stifled, a critical element for groundbreaking innovation is lost (Eswaran, 2019). Studies consistently demonstrate a positive correlation between workforce diversity and a company’s ability to innovate (Hewlett, et al. 2024 & Miller, 2023). Canada’s competitive advantage in the global economy hinges on fostering an environment where all talent, regardless of race, can contribute to driving fresh ideas and problem-solving approaches. Systemic barriers that limit Black participation stunt Canada’s capacity for innovation across industries.
  • Economic Inequality: Statistics underscore the stark economic disparities fueled by systemic barriers. The median income for Black Canadians remains significantly lower than the national average, contributing to a persistent wealth gap. This translates into reduced spending power, limiting Black Canadians’ ability to participate fully in the economy and invest in assets like homeownership, further perpetuating the cycle of economic disadvantage. In fact, “Black Canadians are over-represented in precarious, temporary and low-paying employment and are underrepresented in high-paying managerial positions” (Spiteri 2023). 

6.2 Social Impact

  • Wealth Gap: The wealth gap between Black Canadians and other racial groups is a stark testament to the long-term consequences of systemic inequity. This gap represents not just a disparity in current income, but the cumulative impact of generations denied equitable opportunities to build assets and create intergenerational wealth. The consequences reverberate throughout communities, limiting resources for education, health, and overall well-being (Smith, 2024).
  • Reduced Community Development: When segments of the population are economically disadvantaged, the overall vibrancy and potential of communities suffer. Black-owned businesses are pivotal for creating jobs, stimulating local economies, and reinvesting within communities. Systemic barriers that hinder Black entrepreneurship limit these positive ripple effects, leaving communities under-resourced and stifling their potential for self-sustaining growth.
  • Psychological Toll: The persistent stress of navigating systemic bias, microaggressions, and limited opportunities takes a significant psychological toll on Black Canadians, despite being the third largest racialized group (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020) .  Studies have linked workplace discrimination to increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Jamasi, 2024, Bowden 2023 & McDevitt 2021) . This not only impairs individual well-being but diminishes overall quality of life and may impede career advancement due to the impact on focus,  motivation, and resilience.
  • Eroded Trust: When Black Canadians witness systemic inequity persisting,  it can erode their trust in institutions, systems, and the overall fairness of Canadian society. This sense of disillusionment can lead to disengagement and a reluctance to fully invest in the system, perpetuating cycles of disadvantage. A society’s success depends on citizens feeling a sense of belonging and an equitable opportunity to succeed, both of which are compromised by systemic barriers.
  • Perpetuation of Stereotypes and Prejudice:  The systemic underrepresentation of Black Canadians in positions of leadership and influence reinforces harmful stereotypes and perpetuates unconscious bias  (Makinde 2023 & DasGupta et al. 2020). This contributes to a cycle where Black Canadians may be continually underestimated and undervalued, further limiting opportunities for advancement and breaking down existing barriers.

6.3 The Cost of Inaction

The economic and social impacts outlined above represent significant costs to Canadian society. Failure to address these systemic barriers means continuous perpetuation of injustice that will consistently undermine Canada’s economic potential and social fabric. True progress requires a concerted effort to dismantle these barriers, promoting a genuinely inclusive society where Black Canadians can fully participate and contribute.

7. Solution Framework: Dismantling Barriers and Unleashing Potential

The economic and social costs of systemic barriers faced by Black Canadians in the workplace and entrepreneurial landscape are undeniable. Fortunately, a solution framework exists to dismantle these barriers and unlock the vast potential of Black talent across Canada. This framework requires a multi-pronged approach involving government initiatives, corporate accountability measures, and programs focused on empowering Black Canadians.

7.1 Government Initiatives:

Targeted Programs:

    • Workplace Diversity Incentives: Implement financial incentives for businesses that demonstrate progress towards diversity goals, including hiring, retention, and promotion of Black Canadians.
    • Black Entrepreneurship Funds: Dedicate specific funding streams to support Black-owned businesses at various stages of development, from start-up capital to grants for scaling existing ventures.
    • Mentorship and Training Programs: Develop targeted mentorship programs connecting Black professionals with established leaders across industries and/or allocating fixed annual funds for organizations already thriving in providing such services.

Policy and Regulatory Reforms:

  • Diversity & Inclusion Mandates: Enact legislation mandating diversity targets and accountability measures within the public sector and government-funded organizations to ensure concrete progress towards equitable representation throughout leadership and all levels of employment.
  • Data Collection and Transparency: Establish clear guidelines for collecting and reporting diversity data within businesses. This allows for tracking progress and holding companies accountable for achieving measurable improvements.
  • Review of Recruitment and Promotion Practices: Conduct a review of government recruitment and promotion practices to identify and eliminate any biases that may hinder Black candidates’ advancement.

7.2 Corporate Responsibility: 

  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategies: Develop and implement comprehensive D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) strategies at all levels of the organization. This includes unconscious bias training for leadership and hiring managers, mentorship programs for Black employees, and employee resource groups fostering a sense of belonging and support.
  • Targeted Recruitment Efforts: Actively partner with organizations representing Black professionals to source talent and diversify the applicant pool.
  • Retention and Development Programs: Create targeted strategies to retain Black talent by offering career development opportunities, addressing microaggressions, and fostering a psychologically safe work environment.
  • Procurement Strategies: Establish clear targets for awarding contracts and procuring services from Black-owned businesses. This provides economic opportunities and helps Black entrepreneurs scale their ventures.

7.3 Support for Black Entrepreneurs with Disabilities:

  • In our journey to support black entrepreneurs with disabilities, we have identified several key challenges that need to be addressed. One of the most significant is the limited access to supportive networks and relationships. Unlike other communities where individuals can learn and grow from failure, black entrepreneurs with disabilities often lack this safety net. This reality underscores our collective responsibility to build more inclusive and supportive structures that can help these entrepreneurs navigate the business landscape.
  • We also recognize the importance of creating less biased environments for these entrepreneurs. This involves fostering awareness among our corporate members and suppliers about the diverse needs of these entrepreneurs, such as the requirement for ASL translation. By doing so, we can ensure that entrepreneurs can focus more on representing their businesses without worrying about stigma. Additionally, we advocate for the provision of not just loans but also business grants by the government, public, and private sectors specifically for the Black disability community. These grants can serve as significant barrier breakers, providing much-needed financial support for black entrepreneurs with disabilities to start and grow their businesses.

8. Shifting the Focus: From Problem Identification to Solution Implementation

8.1 Lack of Transparency

It is vital to acknowledge that, currently, employers and BIPOC employees do not entirely trust each other. Entrepreneurs are hesitant to trust banks and funding organizations as well. To address this issue, we need to change organizational culture. Cultivating transparency and accountability is essential for building trust among different stakeholders. 

Business organizations can foster trust between employees and employers by openly sharing data. They must provide a safe space for black workers to step forward and share their experiences and problems. Encouraging BIPOC workers to reach out can have a great impact on changing the work culture.

Aside from sharing data transparently, banks and financing institutions could also contribute by hiring diverse advisors from BIPOC communities.

8.2 Actors and Their Roles

8.2.1 How could each actor contribute?

Government and philanthropists play a crucial role in providing the necessary funds for creating infrastructures for change and capacity building. However, the lack of BIPOC representation in working environments is complex and intertwined. We must acknowledge that any systemic change is possible through numerous trials and errors. It is an iterative process in which organizations learn from mistakes. Therefore, even though we strive for maximum results from our investments, we must remain patient with the results. Change is a slow process but a necessary one.

Organizations and businesses must provide the necessary tools and platforms for their BIPOC employees to succeed. For instance, they can form resource groups or affinity groups where BIPOC members can find belonging by interacting with people with the same interests and lifestyle. Also, by sponsoring community events, they can find BIPOC talent in an environment they feel the most comfortable and present their true selves.


Despite Canada’s reputation for multiculturalism, systemic barriers continue to obstruct the full economic participation of Black Canadians. From unconscious biases in hiring processes to underrepresentation in leadership positions and limited access to capital for Black entrepreneurs, these challenges perpetuate economic disparities and stifle the potential for innovation and overall societal well-being. The ramifications of these systemic issues are far-reaching, leading to decreased earning potential, psychological toll, and a persistent wealth gap within Black communities.

The urgency of addressing this inequity cannot be overstated. The Black community possesses immense talent, entrepreneurial spirit, and a drive to contribute to the Canadian economy. Yet, systemic barriers persist, hindering progress and perpetuating an unjust status quo. To unlock the full potential of both Black Canadians and the nation as a whole, a fundamental shift in mindset and practice is essential. We must dismantle these harmful systems and create a level playing field where Black Canadians can truly thrive.

This transformation requires a multi-pronged approach and a collective commitment to change. Governments hold a responsibility to create targeted initiatives, incentivize Black-focused hiring and retention, and implement accountability mechanisms to ensure equitable practices. The corporate sector must proactively address unconscious biases, foster inclusive work environments, and actively cultivate Black leadership through mentorship and sponsorship programs. Community organizations have a vital role in providing educational resources, mentorship, and culturally relevant support, empowering Black entrepreneurs and professionals to break through existing barriers.

The Redefine Conference 2023 has been a valuable step in catalyzing this change, bringing together multi-sector stakeholders for honest dialogue, insightful research, and the development of actionable strategies. But this conference is just the beginning. It’s imperative that we move beyond mere discussion and implement tangible solutions. Collaborative efforts are essential to building sustainable pathways for Black success. This involves cross-sector partnerships, sharing resources, amplifying Black voices, and a willingness to re-examine existing systems with a critical lens.

We envision a future where Black Canadians are integral contributors to Canada’s economic landscape, where entrepreneurs have unrestricted access to the resources and networks they need to thrive, and where talent is recognized and rewarded regardless of race.  This vision is not about just addressing an injustice; it’s about creating a more prosperous, equitable, and innovative Canada for all. We strongly believe that by working together, with intention and determination, we can realize this future; it is a one worthy of our efforts, and stands to immensely benefit our entire nation.

Redefining Success: Overcoming Systemic Barriers to Black Canadian Employment and Entrepreneurship

Essential Resources for Black Professionals in Canada

Employment and Career Development

  • 4Change Staffing Solutions
    • Presenter: Gwendoline Nubila – Founder
  • Skills for Change
    • Presenter: Christelle Francois – VP, Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships
    • Presenter: Jefferson Roc – Founder

Tech Training and Skill Development

  • SkillHat
    • Presenter: Mo’ Ekujumi
  • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
    • Presenter: Wunmi Adekanmbi – Digital Catalyst

Business Support and Funding

  • Community Futures Lethbridge Region
    • Presenter: Troy Grainger – Executive Director
  • Alberta Innovates
    • Presenter: Reesa John – Director, Fund and Fellowship
  • TD Bank Group
    • Presenter: Gelila Mast – Regional Manager
  • ScaleGood Fund LP
    • Presenter: Ashif Mawji – Managing Director
  • Bank of Canada
    • Presenter: Darrel Rolheiser – Manager, Business Development
  • Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub:
    • Presenter: Dr. Gerald Grant

Community and Advocacy Organizations

  • Ase Community Foundation for Black Canadians with Disabilities
    • Presenter: Liza Anarson
    • Presenter: Victor Beausoleil – Co-Founder & Executive Director
    • Presenter: Deidre Guy | Founder and President
  • Council for the Advancement of African Canadians
    • Presenter: Kojo B. Otoo PhD – Senior Manager
  • Black Business Association of BC
    • Presenter: Nerissa Allen – Founder & President
  • Canadian Imperial Advantage
    • Presenter: Popoola Akande – President
  • Black Business Venture Association
    • Presenter: Dipo Alli – Executive Director
  • African Canadian Civic Engagement Council
    • Presenter: Dunia Nur – President & CEO


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Fairlie, Robert, Alicia Robb, and David Robinson. 2022. “Black and White: Access To Capital Among Minority-owned Start-ups.” Management Science 4(68): 2377-2400. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2021.3998.

Frenette, Marc, and Karen Frank. 2020. “Digital Literacy and Employment in Canada.” Statistics Canada.

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Makinde, Oludolapo. 2023. “Smashing the ‘Concrete Ceiling’: Black Women Are Still Missing from Corporate Leadership.” The Conversation. November 9, 2023. https://theconversation.com/smashing-the-concrete-ceiling-black-women-are-still-missing-from-corporate-leadership-216796.

Masha, Andrew K., Elvis Shava, Thabani Mambiravana, and Patience W. Bwowe. 2022. “Promoting Youth Empowerment Through Business Mentorship In South Africa.” LV, 1(6): 48-57. https://doi.org/10.32936/pssj.v6i1.291.

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BIPOC Foundation empowers BIPOC-led entrepreneurs to start, grow, and scale their businesses in Canada through online Learning and Mentorship Sessions, the Black Founders Hub Accelerator Program, the Financial Wellness Series, Business Planning and in-person events in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.