Categories
Transformative Ideas

She-lutions for a stalled economy

Dr. Wendy Cukier, Academic Director, Diversity Institute; Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub; Future Skills Centre at Ryerson University, Toronto

 

Dr. Wendy Cukier, the founder and director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, is one of the principal authors of the State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020, published by the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) last month.

LiisBeth spoke with Cukier about the recommendations in the report, the challenges presented by COVID-19, the support women need moving forward and what women’s entrepreneurship should look like in the future.

LiisBeth: What was the process of pulling off such a mammoth report during a global pandemic?

Wendy Cukier: We had the report ready to go when COVID-19 hit, so we shifted gears. We did a lot of work with the government and others to get information out on supports for women entrepreneurs. We ran webinars, and we also very quickly did an analysis of programs and consulted with close to 300 groups and entrepreneurs on where the gaps were. So, we took on a bit of an advocacy role for self-employed women and those who were falling between the cracks. And then with COVID-19, what we showed very quickly and very clearly was that COVID-19 was amplifying inequality in a very significant way.

LiisBeth: What was the process of collecting this data?

Wendy Cukier: I’ve done lots of work on things like the wage gap and the impact of unpaid work. When COVID-19 hit, just with my own eyes, I saw the impact on people in my office, on entrepreneurs. I was working with the data that was coming out of different places, but even on Zoom calls, you’d be bombed by little kids all over the place. And it was so very obvious—the difference in terms of the extent to which women have always borne the lion’s share of the unpaid work.

The impact of COVID-19 on…women entrepreneurs’ self-reported productivity…layoffs, the extent to which women entrepreneurs reported negative impacts on their ability to run their business and even their mental health—all of those things are very much supported by the empirical data from different surveys, but quite honestly, I saw it all with my own two eyes.

LiisBeth: What are some of the key findings in the report?

Wendy Cukier: The big thing is the burden of unpaid work, and that is just crushing. Not just for women who are in the workforce, but women who are self-employed or entrepreneurs. It doesn’t really matter if you’re rich or you’re poor. Certainly, people who are lower on the socioeconomic front are often less well equipped—they often don’t have access to high-speed network…a workspace. But even wealthy middle-class women have lost their caregivers and other kinds of supports that had previously enabled them to pursue their entrepreneurial activities. So, the experience of the crushing burden of unpaid work and childcare is pretty severe, right across socioeconomic classes, across sectors, across size, across everything.

When we look at what’s happening with women entrepreneurs and the programs they need to support them, we need to recognize self-employment across a range of sectors—not just tech—as well. If we don’t tackle that definitional problem, we’re effectively ignoring the needs of 900,000 women entrepreneurs. Because we know that women are more likely to be in services, in social enterprises. So not recognizing that excludes a big percentage of women.

We also recognize there are big differences in the experiences of women who are racialized, women who are Indigenous, women who are in rural communities, women with disabilities. And what we showed was COVID-19 was exacerbating all of those.

One of the things that makes me apoplectic is there’s been a ton of stuff about how women have been leading the battle against COVID-19. Jacinda Ardern (the prime minister) from New Zealand. In Canada, leading medical officer, Theresa Tam,—we see her every day reassuring us, it’ll be fine. It’s women, women, women on the frontlines. Yet, if you look at who is being consulted and testifying before the parliamentary committees on what we need for the recovery, 51 per cent of the population (women) is pretty much missing.

I think what’s hugely important is that we have a gender and diversity lens for recovery or we’re going to lose decades of progress.–Wendy Cukier

LiisBeth: What are some of the recommendations of the report?

Wendy Cukier: Well, we have enough information to prioritize certain things like thinking about childcare and homeschooling; making sure that we have intersectional lens; that we understand that access to broadband and infrastructure is absolutely fundamental; and the impact of COVID-19 is highly differentiated based on where you live. It’s a whole cluster of things, and if you don’t have those basic needs, then it’s pretty hard to engage in economic activity. Those things are pretty straightforward.

One of the things I have a preliminary sense of, but we haven’t dug into as deeply as we need to: There are a lot of funding opportunities for incorporated companies that are already at a certain level of sales. So while there may be gaps there and … bias in financing… especially the venture capital space, what I’m really interested in right now is how we deal with pre-revenue, small revenue, micro-businesses that seem to have fallen through the cracks. If you think about the fact that women’s businesses tend to be smaller, newer, and under financed, it’s almost like chopping down all the seedlings. We have to really be attentive to nurturing those early-stage organizations, some of which may never grow, some of which may remain side hustles or supplements to traditional employment. If you care about growth, you also need to care about the fact that these new startups and micro-businesses that women tend to start are being crushed.

LiisBeth: Thank you so much for speaking with us!


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Related Reading:

How to unlock billions of unrealized growth led by entrepreneurial women

Op-Ed: Canadian “Feminist” Policy Agenda Failing 1.5M Canadian Women Entrepreneurs

 

Categories
Activism & Action

LiisBeth's #IWD2020 March Playlist: Marching On, Each for Equal

Brampton rapper Haviah Mighty won the 2019 Polaris Music Prize for the album 13th Floor. (Photo by Mark Matusoff)
 
Here are 10 new songs for us to march to on Sunday, March 8, for International Women’s Day. I believe that working towards equality is a balance between doing our own inner work and taking action in the world. We must be able to honour our pain and the learning we still need to do, and also look outwards to see where there is injustice in our communities and step forward proactively.
The artists below are each striving for equality in their own way, using their platforms and voices to help us all learn and grow. We are each here to contribute to that greater purpose. Let this #IWD2020 be an inspiration for us on how we can march forward, and what direction we are heading in.

Bikini Kill, “Girl Soldier”

Bikini Kill, known for pioneering the Riot Grrrl movement, was one of the first all-female bands in punk to speak out against abuse and misogyny. “Girl Soldier,” truly an anthem to march to, points to the irony of men fighting overseas when there is a war happening on our own homes against women, women’s lives, women’s bodies, women’s rights. Seen here in a live video from the early ’90s with “Turn Off Your TV” draped behind them, Bikini Kill inspired a revolution and called us all to action. 2020 sees them reuniting in a world that just might be ready for their message.

Haviah Mighty, “In Women Colour”

Brampton rapper Haviah Mighty made history in 2019 when she became the first female rapper to ever win a Polaris Prize. The opening track to her album, 13th Floor, cuts hard to the truth of how racist and misogynistic our world (let alone the music industry) still is. She tells her powerful story, how none of it could break her, and now as she breaks boundaries with her art, she is changing the landscape for Black women in this country.

Backxwash, “F.R.E.A.K.S”

Rising Montreal rapper Backxwash identifies as queer and a witch—two communities that have historically been broken through hateful, patriarchal culture. F.R.E.A.K.S is an anthem to all the incredible people existing in the margins of society who are changing our culture by showing up unapologetically. Historical change has always come from queer and marginalized communities, pushing the restricted boundaries of normalcy and redefining identity. Today we celebrate all the amazing freaks.

Riit, “qaumajuapik”

Riit, a Juno-nominated and rising artist from Nunavut, is an embodiment of the slow but real change beginning to happen in the music industry. Her Inuktitut lyrics and throat singing speak of her experience growing up in the Northern Territories, and the strength she has found as a woman through much of it. “qaumajuapik,” the first video from her 2019 album, landed her on many incredible shows and festival lineups, a massive hurdle for an artist living in such an isolated population. Making space for voices like Riit’s is the reason our individual actions matter.

Tei Shi, “Alone in the Universe”

Colombian-born singer Tei Shi often sings on themes of love and loss but her 2019 anthem “Alone in the Universe” is a song for us to march to. If there is a God, and if she is a woman, she’s dropping the ball, Tei Shi proclaims. She follows it by promising to speak up for the sake of others, where she hasn’t been able to speak up for herself. It’s a powerful reflection on the isolation of being a woman, and the importance of taking action on behalf of ourselves and others.

Lido Pimienta, “Eso Que Tu Haces”

Lido Pimienta returns this April with her first album following her 2017 Polaris Prize win, titled Miss Colombia. “Eso Que Tu Haces” depicts the magnificent colour, warmth, and dance tradition of San Basilio de Palenque, the first place of refuge for those fleeing slavery in the Colonial Americas. Her magnetic voice and storytelling has begged Canada for years now to be accountable to continued racism in the country, and this song is no different as she sets a boundary around what can be considered a “loving action,” and what is false.

Sudan Archives, “Glorious”

This video is Black Girl Magic personified as Brittney Parks imagines her own prayer to God in the style of old oral tradition hymns. Inspired by Aisha al-Fallatiyah, the first woman to ever perform in Sudan, “Glorious” prays for money, a foundation of life in our world. It is a stunning and raw nod to intersectional equality—if we want an equal world, we have to understand that it takes marginalized genders, races, and identities that much more effort to get what they need to survive in it.

Austra, “Risk It”

Austra returns this year with new music after four years when we last heard “Future Politics,” a plea for a more equal, utopian world. “Risk It” is a call to action that can be interpreted in our love lives, our political lives, or both (since there’s really no separation in the end, is there?). As we march to the beat of this song, we can contemplate risk as an essential part of growth and change. There are places where we all need to risk it in our lives in order to see equality grow in the world.

Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Indians Never Die”

This song is a beautifully haunting comment on our Earth and the Indigenous communities that have cared for it over many generations. Colonial violence is still painfully active and destructive in the 21st century, and we are each responsible for our part in ensuring that the land we live on and the individuals who continue to care for it do not waste away. Perhaps the physical earth can be part of our vision for equality, too.

Vagabon, “Every Woman”

Do not be deceived by the gentle strum of this song. In the lyrics lives a war cry, a proclamation that Laetitia Tamko is not afraid of the battle that women face every day to exist and be free. There is a solidarity in her lyrics as we understand the importance of every woman coming together in the name of equality. We may be tired, but there’s a ways to go still before we sit down.

Related Playlists

You can also find all our playlists on Spotify under LiisBeth.
https://www.liisbeth.com/2017/07/11/summer-reset-playlist-feminist-entrepreneurs/
https://www.liisbeth.com/2018/03/15/a-change-makers-playlist/