By Hanan Awaad
When I relocated to Canada and decided to make Kitchener my new home, I did not know that I will meet amazing people almost every day. One day I met her, a vibrant young woman with dark long hair and a brilliant smile. Bardish Chagger, our Minister of Small Business and Tourism knows how to mobilize a community … how to engage everyone … and how to lift your spirit when you are in the deep despair. I knew her for years through her amazing work in our community and I was keen to talk to her after being appointed to her position to know how her success, commitments, and insights can inspire us – working women to work harder to write our stories of success.
– With your diversified background and your work in multiculturalism and diversity and with professionals, how can we move towards true gender equality in the workplace, whether in terms of pay gap or as equal representations in high positions?
I really believe one of the best ways to provide opportunities for women, for young people, new-Canadians – any under-represented group – is through growing our entrepreneurial sector. By opening a business, by taking a risk on your own, or with a small team –people can shape their own future and, at the same time, help grow the Canadian economy and create jobs in our communities.
– As a very successful working woman: what was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
First of all, success is relative. You need to pursue your interests for yourself, not for recognition from others. Often in immigrant communities, there is a lot of pressure to live up to certain expectations or to pursue certain roles. If you are happy and feel fulfilled in what you’re doing, then you are successful.
The greatest barrier for a lot of people is to stop worrying about what other people think and to accept that any success you have is yours.
– What is your advice to working women to find the right work-life balance?
I think the more we see women, not just in the workforce, but as owners of companies, as entrepreneurs, as leaders – it will become more acceptable for everyone to push back a little when the boss asks you to stay late and there is a family waiting around the dinner table at home.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he wants to make his Government and Parliament more family-friendly in all kinds of different contexts.
My cabinet colleague, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is doing a great deal of that already by blocking off specific time with her young family. And guess what? Her department is still doing more on this file than we’ve seen in more than a decade! So it can be done.
It’s also not just about families. The interests each of us have, our friends, time to ourselves – it makes us who we are. To keep doing the best you can means making time for those things.
– What role did mentoring play in your success and how can working women benefit from seeking mentors and mentoring other women?
My Aunt really inspired me. She was the first woman in my family to graduate from university. She showed me that you need to make your own success.
Everyone can learn from the mistakes and successes of others. I think it’s so important to engage in your community- whether it’s those immediately around you, or those in similar situations, or those of similar background, or –preferably – all of the above. Talk through your ideas, see what how they can be changed.
On the other side, I would also strongly encourage those who have been successful to mentor others. Not just because it helps to grow our industries and economy – but because they might learn something as well.
We need to be on the leading edge of innovation, and young people have a wealth of ideas. So let’s all work together to see how to make them succeed.
– Who was the greatest influence in your career life?
My father. He showed me from an early age the importance of being an active, engaged participant in your community. He is a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to some things. While he was very happy to have me along banging in campaign signs during elections, or going to meetings – he seemed a little surprised at how much of it rubbed off on me. He used to say “don’t debate me at my kitchen table!”
But we did debate and discuss – and I think it honed my skills for the House of Commons more than anything else!
– What in your life has brought or given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment?
Being chosen to represent the people of my home community of Waterloo as their Member of Parliament. I was born and raised in this community – it’s a part of me. Even though I have had a very strong interest in politics since an early age, it actually took quite a bit of convincing to get me to run. I always preferred to work behind the scenes.
But with all of the support I received– and continue to receive now that I am elected – I know I made the right choice and I’m determined to be a strong voice for our community.
– As Small Business and Tourism Minister, what is the number one obstacle keeping many women from taking the risk of starting their own business?
Lack of support and encouragement. We need to do more to support women entrepreneurs and to support their access to financing and to mentorship.
When people hear a friend or family member is thinking about starting a new business they are often quick to say things like, “Woah, do you know how many new businesses fail in their first year?”
Instead, let’s all recognize the amazing number of success stories! We have a strong, healthy and confident entrepreneurial spirit in this country. Government’s job, my job, is to make sure those start-ups and small businesses have the tools and support they need to grow and lead the country in economic growth and innovation.
Originally posted 2016-03-08 04:42:19.