I had the honour last week of being asked to speak about the work I've been doing with woman-identifying, non-binary and queer entrepreneurs in rural Canada. It was at the Equal Futures Summit in Ottawa. The Equal Futures Network is an umbrella organization, bringing together over 500 organizations across Canada doing gender equity work.
This was the organization's very first conference.
I was part of short presentations from Equal Futures members about what they do, called Knowledge Spotlights. Each spot was limited to 7 minutes. It was a really great exercise in making things short and tight. I was the very first Knowledge Spotlight of the two-day conference, right after Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Marci Ien.
I started by saying I wasn't a researcher, I wasn't an Executive Director, I didn't take Women's Studies in school and I didn't even have a university degree. I said, "It’s only been through sitting in my own uncomfortableness, shame and with my own biases and complicity that I’m standing here today. I continue to walk a humble, vulnerable road to allyship."
I talked about the barriers many of you have shared with me:
Access to capital
Sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism
And the many battles you continue to wage in your own small communities across Canada, in your increasingly intolerant towns
I thought there would be more people working within rural communities. I thought people would say they didn't know about what is happening.
A group of women came together in my own Ontario county, because we all saw the need to change things. One of the women came to Ottawa with me. We talked a long time about what we can do, but also ruminated about the urgency, since it seemed few people at the conference came from smaller communities like ours. (We did meet some folks and they understood us and felt the same way)
One in 6 women-led businesses in Canada operates outside of an urban centre, and yet we're 20 years behind in gender equity and awareness. We're also 20 years behind in the intersectionality of that, relative to racism and homophobia. Representation matters. There is a growing extremism in rural Canada that cannot be ignored. It continues to gain momentum.
We need to keep telling folks about what's happening here.
Our small group of women is working towards creating a national organization, one working to end sexism, racism and homophobia in our rural spaces, and help to create open, compassionate and inclusive communities.
If you'd like to join us, please connect!