A fresh look at the reasons why women and men are self-employed
The retention of women in the labour force has emerged as one of the most pressing concerns of the post-pandemic recovery. At the height of the pandemic in June 2020, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated, “I think it would be fair, as some economists say, to describe the recession we are currently experiencing as a ‘she-cession.’” This rather awkward combination of words refers to the exit of many women from the workforce after COVID hit in March last year.
Semantics has always played an important role in the ways we understand and discuss gender. The construction of gendered phrases such as “she-cession” or “she-covery” are purposeful and political. Semantics can also influence the way gendered data is collected, interpreted and then used to embolden or challenge conventional wisdom. This is exemplified in recent data published by two different surveys that offer diverging interpretations of what motivates women’s entrepreneurship.
The Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and theDiversity Institute at Ryerson University, explores the experience of self-employment in Canada. When participants were asked to identify reasons for self-employment, more women than men cited being one’s own boss. This finding challenges the traditional conflation of entrepreneurship with masculinity, which may prompt investors to re-evaluate the criteria used in determining the success of new ventures.
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