August 07, 2018
When I read this about Canadian women in business, I felt the need to write this
Entrepreneurship allows Indigenous women to achieve financial independence and stability while also elevating and transforming their communities. It's a fact that when a woman is financially stable, the stability trickles down to her children & dependents, and into her community. Communities succeed when women succeed.
AANDC's 2006 reflection of Aboriginal Women in the Canadian Economy showed [with no real surprise] that on-reserve Indigenous women are particularly marginalized. Indigenous women make less money, work in lower-level jobs, are less likely to find employment than non-Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men and that 71% of those with post-secondary education are not employed. Indigenous women wanting to live among their own people & culture, and to raise children with a sense of identity, land & language are the hardest hit financially. They are making the difficult choice of "way of life" over "means of living".
If necessity is the mother of invention, then entrepreneurship for Indigenous women has been a necessity.
It's been identified that Indigenous women are turning to entrepreneurship at higher rates than non-indigenous women as a means of finding independence. In 2017 in Alberta, the rate of Indigenous women business owners is twice that of non-Indigenous women [internal study; Business Development Bank of Canada]; AANDC's "latest" available data showed this same statistic to be general across Canada [source, AANDC 2002]. Indigenous women are also more likely to pay off loans than their male counterparts, while logging an average of 60+ hours of childcare per week (census, 2016).
The challenges Indigenous women face in pursuing entrepreneurship are diverse and complex. They include (but are not limited to):
-Living in isolated communities
-Access to quality & reliable childcare
-Inability to qualify for a loan from mainstream financial institutions due to the lack of property to use for collateral (on-reserve inhibitors), the lack of access to capital for equity and/or the lack of credit
-Inability to work full-time in their business
-Lack of related education
-Lack of confidence
-Lack of access to male-dominated fields such as construction and resource extraction
TD Bank published a study in 2015 showing Aboriginal women as being the ONLY major demographic to both bounce back completely from the 2008-2009 recession AND exceed their pre-recession employment rates.
Indigenous women have long proven we are hard workers. We have proven that our success as individuals turns into improved quality of life for our children, families & communities. Canada must show that it is committed to ensuring that one of the most financially, racially & physically vulnerable and isolated populations has the tools necessary to work to create its own independence and success.