Boosting Economic Growth: A Report on Women Ag Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan

Agriculture and agri-food industries represent approximately 10% of Saskatchewan’s gross domestic product. Despite increasing interest in women in ag, the representation of women entrepreneurs in these industries remains low in the province and across the country. For example, only 25% of farm operators in Saskatchewan, and approximately 30% nationally, are women.  Underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs in ag is a missed opportunity.

This report examines the current status of women ag entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan in 2020. Data for this report was gathered through secondary and primary sources. Secondary sourced data included a review of available statistics, programs devoted to women in ag, and both academic and non-academic research. Primary sourced data included interviews with 32 individuals employed in ag in Saskatchewan.

For the purposes of this report, ag entrepreneurs are those who develop an ag-related business venture, whether it be primary production, small business, home-based business, value-add activity, processing activity, online-based business, or product-based business. This definition includes farm operators.

Women contribute to the ag sector in various ways; however, most existing research focuses on on-farm work. A review of existing literature reveals that as of 2016 the majority of farm partnerships do not have a written agreement (17% without, compared to 5% with a written agreement).  The notion of the “traditional” farming couple, with distinct gender roles for men and women, is still intact—both in practice and in the social imagination. This ideology has effects on women’s work on-farm, off-farm, and in the home and family.

Many of the challenges reported by those interviewed stems from structural issues of power and inequality and, in particular, the continued construction of ag as a male dominated industry. Key reported challenges include: socialization and gender roles; time and work-life balance; stereotypes, sexism and discrimination; credibility and confidence; networking; and, access to capital and financing.

Yet, those interviewed were also optimistic. The major opportunities they reported include: the importance and opportunity for women ag entrepreneurs role models and building support for each other; opportunities for women’s contributions to key areas of ag; women ag entrepreneurs taking a leadership role in advocacy and mental health; increasing access to financial resources and support programs; and, men supporting change as it relates to women ag entrepreneurship and ag more broadly.

This report also outlines several recommendations to address the challenges that women ag entrepreneurs confront and to continue the advancement of women ag entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan.

This report has been prepared by the Saskatchewan regional hub of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) at the Hill and Levene Schools of Business, University of Regina, in collaboration with the central WEKH hub at Ryerson University.

View the full report here.

Authors: Dr. Amber Fletcher, Christie Newton, Dr. Gina Grandy, University of Regina