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New Schools of Business report highlights importance of women ag entrepreneurs in SK

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: June 11, 2020 1:00 p.m.

More than $13 billon of Saskatchewan’s annual GDP is attributed to the agricultural sector. A better understanding of the role of women in agriculture entrepreneurship will have significant economic and social impact for the growth of the province.
More than $13 billon of Saskatchewan’s annual GDP is attributed to the agricultural sector. A better understanding of the role of women in agriculture entrepreneurship will have significant economic and social impact for the growth of the province. Credit: Adobe Stock

A new report by the University of Regina’s Hill and Levene Schools of Business sheds lights on the status of women entrepreneurs in agriculture and outlines recommendations to continue the advancement of women ag entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Amber Fletcher BAHons’06, PhD’14, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies
Credit: U of R Photography

On Thursday, June 11, the Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the U of R released the findings of their first report as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) for Saskatchewan: A Report on Women Ag Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan. 

Led by Dr. Amber Fletcher, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies, Christie Newton, Levene School of Business graduate student, and Dr. Gina Grandy, Dean of Hill and Levene Schools of Business, the Report was funded through WEKH to gain insight into the challenges facing women entrepreneurs within the agricultural sector, and future opportunities – for the entrepreneurs and for the economy. With 10% of Saskatchewan’s GDP – and $13 billion annually – directly attributed to the agriculture sector, greater knowledge of the role of women in agriculture entrepreneurship will have significant economic and social impact for the growth of the province. The Report is based on existing studies on women in agriculture, as well as 32 interviews conducted with Saskatchewan-based women entrepreneurs in agricultural and related industries.

“There is currently very little research on the relationship of women, entrepreneurship, and the agricultural sector,” says Newton. “In many of the existing studies, the term ‘entrepreneur’ in agriculture only refers to farmers, but not those who work in the processing, financing, advocating, and technology side. Add to the mix that many farm operators do not even consider themselves entrepreneurs.”

Across the country, there is a significant gap when the percentage of women-owned businesses is compared to the percentage of those owned by men. By addressing this gap, studies have found that by 2026, the Canadian economy could realize a $150 billion-plus much-needed injection. As the global economy starts its COVID-19 recovery journey, agriculture will continue to play a vital role in building a strong Saskatchewan. While more programs and opportunities are being created to aid in encouraging a greater gender balance in agriculture, more work is required.

Christie Newton BScHons’18, Levene School of Business graduate student.
Credit: U of R Photography

“Our report found that there is continued gender inequality in agriculture, but conditions are changing for the better,” says Fletcher. “The role of women entrepreneurship in agriculture is such an important topic and the timeliness of our WEKH report is significant.”

Many of the problems women agriculture entrepreneurs experience, based on the interviews conducted for the report, stem from established gender roles of women on farms, their access to capital and financing, stereotypes and discrimination, and a lack of visibility. In many ways, agriculture continues to be an “old boys club”. Even though women have and continue to play a critical role in running farms, the work that women agricultural entrepreneurs perform often remains hidden, unrecognized, and undervalued.

“The women interviewed told us similar stories of attending agriculture conferences and being the only woman in the room,” says Newton. “They would be in meetings with male counterparts and never be addressed as a decision maker. It’s not always about having more female farmers but changing the perception of what a women’s role is on the farm and who is an agriculture entrepreneur.”

Despite the obvious challenges and frustrations, Newton was encouraged by the information shared in the interviews and the overarching positive outlook shared by most women agriculture entrepreneurs.

“There was a lot of optimism from these women,” says Newton. “They are passionate about their work and want to help inspire change for the future.”

Based on the research findings, the Report has eight recommendations for advancing women ag entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan:

  • Recognizing women as agriculture entrepreneurs;

  • Recognizing women farmers for the work they do;

  • Increased childcare support and child-friendly spaces;

  • Men supporting change;

  • Building coalitions;

  • Access to training and education;

  • Access to finance; and,

  • Policy and commitment to change.

Dr. Gina Grandy, Dean of the Hill and Levene Schools of Business.
Credit: U of R Photography

“Agriculture is a key driver of the Saskatchewan economy, and a more thorough understanding of the role women play in its future is great for the growth of the sector, great for the family farm, and great for the province,” says Grandy. 

The Hill and Levene Schools of Business and WEKH plan to continue their role in advancing women entrepreneurship in ag by working collaboratively with various stakeholders across the province and country to determine next steps.

“At a time when young people are leaving the family farm and the challenges facing our economy post-pandemic, there are significant practical and economic benefits to increasing the participation of women in entrepreneurship,” says Newton. “It will take time, but our recommendations will help women entrepreneurs in agriculture to be role models, inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in this sector, and underscore the economic engine waiting to be harnessed.”

The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, part of the Government of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, is a national program comprised of ten regional hubs working to increase women entrepreneurs’ access to financing, talent, networks, and expertise. The primary hub is located in Toronto at Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and has a national network of more than 250 organizations and reaches more than 100,000 women entrepreneurs. Recently, the Hill and Levene Schools of Business at the U of R were selected as the regional hub for Saskatchewan.

“Becoming a regional hub for WEKH is an opportunity to provide a voice and connection point for women entrepreneurs across the province to build networks, share resources, and advance the impact of entrepreneurship on our economic growth,” says Grandy.  “This report is the first example of the important work the Hill and Levene Schools of Business will be able to complete through the WEKH.”

Related

Learn more about the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub at the University of Regina’s Hill and Levene Schools of Business

Learn more about the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub

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