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Indigenous women discuss entrepreneurship in the Canadian economy

January 11, 2019

A discussion panel at the Cando conference in 2018 saw four women share their experiences of being a woman in business

A nurturing support network can help propel ideas into goals—and goals into viable businesses. This is especially true for young Indigenous firms as they continue to build up their presence and services in various communities in Canada. For the fifth year in a row, the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando) conference ran a women’s panel that highlights and recognizes the significant impact that Indigenous women and entrepreneurs have on the Canadian economy. Held in Enoch, Alberta, this past October, Stantec’s Denise Pothier, vice president of Practice Services and Indigenous Relations, moderated the panel discussion between four Indigenous female entrepreneurs and leaders who, in many ways, are blazing the trail across disciplines and cultures.

L to R: Deanna Burgart, Jacquelyn Cardinal, Denise Pothier, Ruth Chambers-Gee, and Janice Larocque

“The panel was a way to highlight Indigenous women in business and learn about each one of them,” says Denise. “The panel spoke to my heart and my soul. I felt inspired to work harder to create connections with Indigenous businesses and support their success. Building and maintaining personal resiliency while growing a business can be challenging, but staying grounded in your personal or traditional values can strengthen that path.”

Started in 1990, Cando is an annual conference that brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses, organizations, and communities to boost economic development. They aim to provide focus on training, education, and networking opportunities that help serve these communities and organizations.

The four panelists shared the excitement and trepidation of launching a business and sustaining it through economic ups and downs. “I loved the diversity of the fields where the discussants work. The panel introduced me to women who do great things in the community,” says Jacquelyn, a member of the Sucker Creek First Nation who co-founded Naheyawin, an Edmonton-based consulting firm specializing in implementing Indigenous principles into everyday processes and business practices.

Panelist Janice Larocque, an award-winning entrepreneur who manages Spirit Staffing & Consulting Inc., also believes in the importance of encouraging youth to lead the charge for change. “The conference sends the message that Indigenous youth need to step up, go out into the communities, and sustain their families,” says Janice. Helping them do that is Janice’s job. Since 1998, she has been bridging the gap between Indigenous workforce and large corporations and training young Métis and First Nations professionals for future jobs.

“Supporting the Indigenous Women in Business panel speaks to Stantec’s values of inclusion and diversity,” says Denise. “The panel and the conference reminded me that the work that we do in supporting Indigenous communities is very important.”

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