How Business Leaders Can Lift Up Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

According to the 2022 Annual Business Survey, only 21% of employer firms are minority-owned, and only 22% are women-owned. Though entrepreneurship has grown to become a major avenue for people to pursue their passions while fulfilling unmet needs and desires, not all entrepreneurs are operating on a level playing field.

Recognizing the obstacles minority and women entrepreneurs face is the first step in countering the barriers that prevent more underrepresented groups from entering the market. With proper access to capital, resources and networking opportunities, the creation of an inclusive business community truly enables growth for all.

Below, 15 Forbes Business Council members each share one thing business leaders can do to lift up underrepresented entrepreneurs, encourage entrepreneurship and support their businesses.

1. Walk The Walk

Business leaders must not just talk about diversity but walk it, too. Start by investing directly in minority- and women-led ventures. It’s not charity but smart business. By backing these underrepresented entrepreneurs, we’re leveling the playing field and enriching our economy with diverse perspectives and groundbreaking ideas. Lead with action and words, and know your numbers to truly know your worth. – Aleesha Webb, Pioneer Bank

2. Develop Mentorship Programs

Business diversity begins with action. Develop mentorship programs to provide opportunities for underrepresented and emerging entrepreneurs to learn from those who have achieved success. Work with partners to provide these entrepreneurs with insights, resources and relevant networking paths. This approach not only supports individual businesses but also builds a more inclusive, innovative business community. – Chris Kille, EO Staff

3. Direct Spending To Diverse Businesses

Deliberately direct your business spending to diverse businesses. Develop a strong supplier diversity program with outreach, favorable payment terms, training, mentorship opportunities and support. If diverse businesses employ more underrepresented staff members, the impact of a strong program can be powerful. – Hannah Kain, ALOM

4. Examine Skills And Perceptions

As a proud female co-founder of a SaaS scale-up business, I’m happy to say that all growth-related departments in our company are led by women, including marketing, partnership, sales and customer success. My advice is that business leaders should look at the unique skills and perceptions these groups bring to the table as a benefit. – Zsuzsa Kecsmar, Antavo Loyalty Management Platform

5. Establish Company Policies With A Gender Perspective

First and foremost, establish company policies that incorporate a gender perspective. Providing guidance, resources

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What business leaders can learn from Hollywood bad guy (and Canadian political royalty) Kiefer Sutherland

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Jordan Strauss/The Associated Press

Canada has produced plenty of megastars, but only one who’s descended from both political and acting royalty. Sutherland and his growl of a voice have been bona fide stars through five decades—particularly impressive considering the actor’s signature roles have been, er, somewhat complicated (including, most recently, Capt. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial). One thing’s for sure: Sutherland’s legacy will never grow old, and it’ll never die.

Go hard or go home

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Sutherland was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, starring in films like The Lost Boys, Young Guns and A Few Good Men, and engaged to the hottest actress: his Flatliners co-star Julia Roberts. After she ran off with his best friend, Sutherland — who’d raised horses and owned a cattle ranch — joined the rodeo, travelling around with legit cowboys. Eventually, he became a champion roper (look it up — it’s wild). As his friend Lou Diamond Phillips once said: “Kiefer doesn’t just stick his toe in. He goes all the way in.”

Follow your gut

When Sutherland got the script for 24, he loved it—but he didn’t think anyone else would. He dove in anyway, and the groundbreaking show debuted just a couple of months after 9/11. Sutherland’s portrayal of counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer resonated with scared and angry Americans, making “Previously on 24…” the most anticipated words on TV. The show ran for nine seasons and propelled Sutherland back into the spotlight for a whole new generation of fans.

Know your part

Sutherland made his name as a villain, starting in 1986 with Ace in Stand By Me and peaking in the 1996 thriller An Eye For an Eye, a portrayal so ugly that people refused to remain in his presence. Even 24′s Bauer crosses the line into bad-guy territory, having zero qualms about torture in the service of the greater good. But no story shines without an antagonist, and Sutherland came to accept that he was damn good at being one, saying: “My rationalization as an actor is, if those characters aren’t kind of awful, then the good part of this story can’t be told.”

Family matters

Though Sutherland left Toronto for Hollywood at 18, he’s fiercely proud of his Canadian roots — including his actor parents, Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland,

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US business leaders are pushing back against years of corporate diversity efforts

By Elizabeth BennettFeatures correspondent

Getty Images Bill Ackman, chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images
Bill Ackman, chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, pushed back on DEI policies in an X post (Credit: Getty Images)

Diversity, equity and inclusion policies have become the norm at many companies. As some notable corporate leaders reject the approach, is a DEI backlash brewing?

Elon Musk used his social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on 3 January to tell his 168 million followers that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was “just another word for racism”. Musk added his comments in a retweet of American hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman, who had posted a long criticism of DEI policies, following his successful calls for the resignation of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first black and female president.

In the same week, Chip Wilson, founder of activewear brand Lululemon, made headlines in a Forbes profile when he spoke out about the “whole diversity and inclusion thing”. The former CEO (Wilson left the company in 2013 but still remains a major shareholder), criticised Lululemon for wanting to be “everything to everybody”, and called the brand’s inclusive advertising imagery “unhealthy”, “sickly” and “not inspirational”. 

For the past several decades, corporate DEI policies have become an increasing priority, embraced by leaders of major businesses. Katleen De Stobbeleir, professor of leadership at Vlerick Business School, Belgium, says DEI has been a prominent theme since the 1960s, but the focus has amplified in the past decade. “It used to be a ‘nice to have’, and something for the more advanced companies. But today it has become a qualifying minimum and a topic that has received more attention from the C-suite.” 

Yet some of the same kinds of high-profile leaders who embraced the inclusive policies are now publicly critical of them.

Alamy Chip Wilson, founder of activewear brand Lululemon, criticised the brand for its inclusive advertising imagery, calling it "not inspirational" (Credit: Alamy)Alamy
Chip Wilson, founder of activewear brand Lululemon, criticised the brand for its inclusive advertising imagery, calling it “not inspirational” (Credit: Alamy)

Sankalp Chaturvedi, professor of organisational behaviour and leadership, and associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion at London’s Imperial College Business School, says extensive research has shown “when gender, ethnicity or any form of the diversity are on the table, quality of discussions and decision-making is better, creativity is improved and the performance of the organisation and its culture is stronger”.

Yet despite this, these programmes are increasingly landing in corporate crosshairs.

Chaturvedi says the current public pushback is

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Business leaders say halted trade talks harm India and Canada

MONTREAL — Business leaders continue to grapple with fallout from the rift between the Canadian and Indian governments, saying the suspension of free trade talks helps no one.

Thesouringrelationship marks a major hurdle to boosting bilateral trade beyond last year’s $20.9 billion in goods and services and deters Indian students from studying in Canada, commercial groups say.

“Stopping any trade discussion or trade negotiation doesn’t make sense. How will that help us as a country?” asked Satish Thakkar, chairman of the Canada India Foundation. Canada halted trade treaty talks on Sept. 1.

“This is the biggest fall in Canada-India relations since the 1970s.”

They rapidly deteriorated after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament on Sept. 18 that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh independence activist who was shot dead in June outside the gurdwara he led in Surrey, B.C.

In response, the Indian government suspended visa services for Canadian citizens — partially restored last month — and revoked diplomatic immunity from Canadian diplomats, prompting two-thirds of them to leave the country.

The trade potential between Canada and India — the world’s most populous nation and fastest growing large economy — remain largely unrealized, observers say. India remains Canada’s eighth-largest trading partner, well behind the U.S. and China.

Negotiations on the would-be Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement launched in 2010 before foundering in 2017. They resumed in 2022, with the goal of reaching a deal this year.

The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada says the treaty could increase two-way trade by up to $8.8 billion by 2035 and result in a Canadian GDP gain of up to $5.9 billion. Canada’s mineral, agriculture, chemicals and wood product sectors could all see sizable export boosts.

“There is a lot of complementarity between what Canada has and India needs,” said Victor Thomas, CEO of the Canada-India Business Council. “IT services, for example — a huge growth in very specific talent that, again, complements our economy that India can provide.

Of the 32,115 international tech workers who migrated to Canada between April 2022 and March 2023, nearly half — 15,097 — came from India, a July report from the Technology Councils of North America and Canada’s Tech Network found.

“This relationship is extremely important,” Thomas said. “But businesses like predictability and stability.”

The frayed relations mean “uncertainty prevails,” sowing doubt among some Indian

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People, housing, land: N.W.T. business leaders call for cascade of change from next gov’t

The outlook was rather grim.

“The recovery from the pandemic returns the economy to its pre-pandemic path of slow decline,” read this year’s budget documents for the Northwest Territories.

The budget goes on to list a raft of challenges: inflation, high interest rates, a shortage of workers, insufficient economic diversification, and the fast-approaching closure of the territory’s three diamond mines.

This summer’s devastating wildfires and evacuations haven’t helped the situation.

Now, candidates in the N.W.T. general election are out canvassing, and business leaders are expressing their concerns and offering ideas for how to invigorate the territory’s wilting economy.

Land development difficulties

Right now, getting land from the territorial government in Yellowknife ‘is like pulling teeth out of your face,’ said Rob Warburton, a Yellowknife developer and city councillor. (Submitted by Rob Warburton)

“Fundamentally, if you want to grow the economy, you need to grow your population,” said Rob Warburton, a Yellowknife developer and city councillor. 

Specifically, the territory needs more skilled workers, he said, but a lack of housing across the N.W.T. is a big barrier to bringing them in.

“All the focus of government is consistently about social housing and the housing corporation, which needs a lot of attention, but there’s no conversation around the private sector, which actually provides most of your housing in Yellowknife, Hay River,” he said. 

“I’d love to hear some candidates talk about how do we support economic growth in partnership with industry, because that’s who actually builds your housing, that’s who employs a lot of people.”

One thing the territorial government could do to spur housing development is make more land available to communities, he said. Right now, he said, the process for getting that land in Yellowknife is akin to “pulling teeth out of your face.”

Adrian Bell, a realtor and president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, agrees that growing the population and addressing the labour shortage are key to economic growth — and that more housing is necessary to achieve those things. 

“I hear this all the time of people who’ve accepted jobs and they come to town to try to find housing and they can’t, and they have to turn the job down and they leave,” he said. 

A headshot of Yellowknife realtor Adrian Bell.
‘I hear this all the time of people who’ve accepted jobs and they come to town to try to find housing and they can’t, and they have to turn the job
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