Women4ClimateTO program returns to support city’s future female climate leaders

Program helps women to overcome barriers in developing a climate-action project

Women4ClimateTO third cohort celebration event
Women4ClimateTO third cohort celebration event (Courtesy Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie) 

The City of Toronto has opened the applications for its Women4ClimateTO 2023 program to empower female leaders who want to create new solutions to locally address the climate emergency.

“Women are also often disproportionately impacted by climate change,” said director of Toronto’s Indigenous Affairs Office, Selina Young. “They often have different access to and control over resources; and they have different vulnerabilities and capacities to respond to climate change.”

In many cultures, women are “earth workers, stewards of the land and water protectors,” said Young, who is co-champion of the Women4ClimateTO program, alongside Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie.

The City of Toronto, working with C40 Cities — a network of mayors of the world’s leading cities that are trying to end climate change — created the mentorship program in 2019 to support female entrepreneurs who are climate-focused.

Participants engage in a combination of mentoring, training, and networking opportunities to help advance their climate-related projects or business start-ups.

Around the world, women are impacted by climate change and often don’t have as many seats and opportunities at ‘decision-making tables’, says McKelvie, who is also city councillor for Scarborough-Rouge Park .

“In Canada, women represent less than a quarter the total number of small and medium-sized business owners,” McKelvie said.

What the program offers

According to Young, the program provides participants with necessary support to bring their initiatives to market.

Applicants must identify as women or 2-Spirit; live, work or study in Toronto; have a climate-action project or related start-up business, and be 18 years of age or older.

The start-up business or project must involve biodiversity, air quality, sustainability (transport and buildings) and renewable energy.

Over a six-month period, participants will receive:

  • Mentorship – participants will be matched with leaders from the political, public, civil society, private sector and not-for-profit organizations.
  • Training – participants will receive support in the preparation of a business plan, marketing and communications plan and pitch presentation.
  • Networking opportunities – throughout the program, participants will engage in events that will help broaden their professional network.
  • Funding – following the completion of the mentorship program, the City and partners will host a pitch competition where participants have a chance to win up to a total of $30,000 in cash awards towards advancing their initiative.
Women4ClimateTO mentorship program alumnae at Small Business Forum (Courtesy Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie).

City’s plan 

According to the City of Toronto, the city is experiencing a big change in weather by having extreme weather events, including heat waves and storms. Climate change is expected to make Toronto’s weather hotter and extreme in the years to come.

According to McKelvie, the impacts of climate change are increasing worldwide. The City of Toronto has committed to a goal of being net zero by 2040, meaning the city’s economy needs to emits no greenhouse gas emissions by that year. Actions such as tree planting can help achieve this.

Emissions throughout the city come from many sources, including buildings, transportations and waste, McKelvie said.

“Our success in achieving our climate goals is reliant upon the support of other levels of government, businesses and community organizations,” she said. “We need motivated climate leaders with big ideas to help us address this big problem.”

From 2010 to 2019, the amount spent for catastrophic weather events totalled over $18 billion, a report from the city said.

Women4Climate TO’s booth for Live Green Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

According to McKelvie, since the start of Toronto’s Women4ClimateTO program, the city has seen projects across all of these areas and more, such as active transportation, arts projects, waste diversion, storm water management and community outreach.  

According to Young, on top of supporting the applicants to bring their initiative to market, the program created something new for socializing after the program ends. The alumnae can participate in the newly Women4ClimateTO Alumnae Network. 

The newly launched Alumnae Network aims to grow a community of emerging female climate leaders by strengthening peer connections, where they can comunicate and continue learning from each other after the mentorship is over, Young said.

“The mentorship can help these women overcome some of the barriers associated with developing a climate action or start-up business,” Young said.

“This mentorship will help them advance their initiative.”

“Women4Climate Toronto amplifies the voices of women in the climate space and grow the number of female entrepreneurs in the city,” McKelvie said.

The deadline to apply to participate is Dec. 5, and the mentorship will happen in from January 2024 to May 2024.

About this article

Posted: Nov 4 2023 9:00 am
Filed under: News