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Saskatchewan women entrepreneurs in male-dominant industries breaking stigma

Women entrepreneurs in fields that are underrepresented are breaking the stigma, one business at a time.

Anne Calladine, an Indigenous woman from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) told Global News many people are surprised to learn that she owns her own business in the northern region of Saskatchewan.

Calladine first bought NorthWinds Bus Lines and NorthWinds Disposal Services in 2008. In 2015, she started construction on a 12,000 square foot service shop and had purchased additional land for equipment and bus parking.

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“We had a one-bay service shop. That fall, we started construction adding on a second bay and added a washroom,” said Calladine. “We’ve gone from a small basic building to now where we have a beautiful facility for our staff.”

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Although business is doing well, Calladine recounts early days dealing with stigma within the male-dominant industry.

“The men from my community would walk into my office and say ‘I’d like to speak with the boss,’ not looking at me,” she said. “Everybody in the office would look at [me], and say ‘she’s the boss.'”

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In 2016, Calladine was named the Indigenous Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA). She said it was an honour to receive the award for the work she does after investing years of work to get to where she is.

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Calladine encourages other women to pursue being their own boss, with a few things in mind.

“Don’t try to look pretty. Don’t try to flirt, [be] teasy or coy. That’s not what [men are] going to respect,” she said.

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“They are going to respect someone who could talk business with them, who is in there for the right reasons and who could present themselves properly. That is one thing I am so key on.”

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Calladine is among the 38.9 per cent of women-owned businesses based outside Saskatchewan’s top 11 urban centres according to a recently released government report on women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan sharing detailed data from 2007-2020.

“Businesses owned by women are significant employers. Women-owned businesses employed the same number of employees, on average, as men-owned businesses (three per business),” according to the report. “However, businesses owned by women generated 56.0% of the revenues of men-led businesses, 60.0% of assets and 72.0% of average payroll expenditures.”

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The report includes details of provincial support for women entrepreneurs through two new programs: Scale Up for Entrepreneurs and Digital Literacy for Entrepreneurs. According to a release, both programs will be funded through Canada-Saskatchewan Labour Market Transfer Agreements.

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“The Scale Up for Entrepreneurs initiative will provide $450,000 to help eligible Saskatchewan entrepreneurs receive relevant training to acquire skills and knowledge to grow their businesses,” states the report. “The Digital Literacy for Entrepreneurs will provide $1.6 million to focus on addressing the digital literacy needs of entrepreneurs, including women entrepreneurs, who want to integrate digital technologies into the future success and growth of their business, while mitigating future risk associated with the application of technology.”

The CEO of Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) said investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

“This report is a good news story,” said Prabha Mitchell. “We should take pause and celebrate women entrepreneurs in our province.”

Find the full report on the Saskatchewan government website.