Out of Poverty

Economic security leads to better futures. You can support the goal of gender justice by helping women and gender-diverse people get the tools they need to move out of poverty.

Women and gender-diverse people are at high risk of poverty, which makes them and their families vulnerable to problems like housing and food insecurity, exploitation, and gender-based violence. Poverty is a significant barrier to gender equality and safety for women and Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people.

Why is reducing poverty urgent?

Breaking Cycles of Gendered Poverty, Building Better Futures

The Canadian Women’s Foundation invests in Economic Development programs to reduce gendered poverty and build economic strength for those who need it most. These programs:

  • provide “wrap-around support” to help participants break through barriers to access programs in the first place. They help participants get childcare and transportation, afford course materials, find safe housing, and maintain employment.
  • help participants break into well-paying fields where women are traditionally underrepresented: construction, carpentry, electrical, auto mechanics, and technology. Participants may be matched with mentors, and many programs help women to pay for essentials like tools.
  • teach entrepreneurship. Participants learn essential life skills and how to create a business plan, build a network, and do marketing, sales, and product development. Some get help finding a mentor, and some get help accessing loan funds to launch their businesses.
  • help women learn employment skills and gain work experience in “social purpose” businesses operated by community-based, non-profit organizations. They receive on-the-job training and coaching. For women who have been out of the workforce, work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and/or are new to Canada, these programs help them gain experience and confidence.

Though our Investment Readiness Program, we also help women-led and women-serving organizations join the social innovation and social finance ecosystem in Canada. Strengthening these organizations ensures they can thrive and keep making a positive impact in communities all over the country.

Social innovation is “about developing new solutions to social or economic challenges. It can improve people’s quality of life through collaborating with new partners, testing creative ideas and measuring their impact.” Social finance is “a tool that seeks to mobilize private capital for the public good. It creates opportunities for investors to finance projects that benefit society and for community organizations to access new sources of funds” (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2019).

How Your Support Makes an Impact: Grantee Program Spotlight

Diverse women build careers in trades and technology through a range of supports from career exploration and college-level training to employment and apprenticeship certification.
6-month program supports Indigenous entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and livelihoods in Northern Canada.
This social enterprise, located in a centre that acts as a community hub, addresses the needs of women who have experienced violence. It is a vertical farm where participants are employed in a flexible, supportive environment. At the same time that participants build their knowledge of and access to good, healthy food, they develop their assets, social networks, and economic resilience.
This pre-employment program prepares newcomer women for careers in the technology sector through web development and design training, tech-specific language skills, employment preparation training, and a practicum placement.
After getting support from the Foundation to turn its social enterprise program into e-commerce, this organization is well-positioned to increase revenue and support for women experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Building Excellence Beyond the Local Program

Help create a Canada where gendered poverty becomes a thing of the past.

We support regional and national service providers to coordinate their work, share promising practices, undertake research on new approaches, and influence decision-makers to approach building economic security in the most effective ways.

Economic Development Donors and Partners


Canadian Western Bank
Capital One Canada
Government of Canada’s Social Innovation/Social Finance Strategy
RBC Foundation
TD Bank Group


Citi Canada
Roslyn Bern, The Leacross Foundation


Fairstone Financial Inc.
Groupe Dynamite Inc.
Merix Financial
Nancy Coxford

After finishing a skilled trades program in carpentry, Elizabeth Small is building a new future as the owner of a renovation company and paving the way for other women in skilled trades.

Read Elizabeth’s Story

Woman looking at camera

“I graduated from the program with more self-confidence and a great foundation in coding.” – Tolulope’s Story

Watch: Tolulope and many other participants share how economic development programs impacted their journeys

You make change happen

  • 46% of participants in our Economic Development programs moved closer to developing a sustainable livelihood.

Learn more