First Generation Feminist

By Marla Raymundo

 

Growing up as first generation Canadian, I was always encouraged to pursue a professional career as either a nurse, doctor, lawyer or accountant. I had this linear perception of “success” and thought that it only came from careers related to science, law or business. These jobs provided financial stability, which I was under the impression was the key to happiness and satisfaction. Despite my lack of interest in anything related to math or science, I came into University assuming I would spend four years pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology.

University granted me the freedom to choose my courses and create my own timetable without the usual bias or guidance from my parents. I would have never predicted that I would switch majors entirely from science to a major in Women and Gender studies after taking the intro course as an elective in my first year. To my surprise, “feminism transformed the way I viewed the world and the systems which existed to oppress myself and the others around me.” I had been desensitized to the inequities that occured on a daily basis and despite being socialized to comply, I became intrigued with the idea of questioning the institutions which drove society. This new awareness allowed me to critique and analyze my actions in a new way.

I’m now in my final year at U of T which has led me to Shecosystem as part of a 6 month co-op program, embedding myself in a feminist organization to have a hands-on experience with a business that values inclusiveness, visibility and empowerment in the local community.  

My time at Shecosystem has allowed me to observe and bask in an environment where feminism thrives and is put into practice daily. Shecosystem stays true to their values and my Fridays consist of being surrounded by motivating, inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs who genuinely enjoy the work they do.

It wasn’t until Emily asked me to take part in the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum where I came to the realization of how feminism can truly pilot social change. In the classroom we are taught that the concept of feminism is not fixed and is constantly evolving to current issues, and this was certainly true at the EFF.

The conference introduced a new concept of feminism I was unfamiliar with. Crafted and defined by Dr. Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliot, the authors of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs, the term Entrepreneurial Feminism can be described as enacting feminist values within venture creation and entrepreneurship policy. Prior to the conference, I was unaware of the power differentials embedded within the heteronormative system of entrepreneurship. I had always assumed that gender equality through ethical capitalism was the norm.

Entrepreneurial Feminism is a new movement, a new way to do business, and ensures equity-based outcomes for females, trans, queer, women and women-identified entrepreneurs alike.

The workshops and performances held throughout the day by entrepreneurs from across North America demonstrated how entrepreneurial feminism can produce “success” through passion and wellness. One of the speakers, Rania Younes, co-founder of WelcomeHomeTo, held a workshop on how the current settlement system fails newcomers, with many having difficulty adjusting and seeking employment upon arrival to Canada. Those frustrations have since resulted in the creation of The Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto, which is a non-profit organization that invites Syrian refugee women into a space where they mingle, cook and sell cultural foods. The kitchen encourages integration through socialization and interactions with customers and members of the community. Despite the barriers that the Syrian refugee women face, the kitchen became a way for the women to cope with homesickness while generating an income to support their families.

Success can be achieved through feminist business models, self-regulation, non-hierarchical leadership roles, collaboration and operational practices deterring from the heteronormative model.

Entrepreneurial Feminism and feminist capital contribute to a new movement which changes the way entrepreneurs run their businesses. My experience at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum has since shaped and altered my personal definition of success. It was inspiring being surrounded by such a diverse groups of entrepreneurs who despite challenging the patriarchal system are able to thrive, making themselves visible and paving their own way in the competitive market!

Now I spend my days dreaming away and cultivating entrepreneurial ideas as I approach graduation and the dreaded “real world.” I’ve come to the realization that I can no longer hide behind my student status and the safety of the routine I became too comfortable and familiar with.

Shecosystem and Entrepreneurial feminism give me the hope that I can thrive creating my own path!