Entrepreneurial experiences of Syrian refugee women in Canada: a feminist grounded qualitative study

Abstract

This study aims to explore the motives and factors that drive entrepreneurship in Syrian refugee women in Canada and the differential contexts that may support or hinder these activities. Using a qualitative research design, a total of 29 in-depth interviews were conducted with Syrian refugee women, who had been in Canada for a minimum of 1 year and with key informants, including employment counselors and program managers who work closely with refugees during their resettlement. A feminist grounded analysis led to the identification of systemic challenges to entrepreneurship. Particularly, findings illustrate how the women were primarily interested in starting a small business in feminized industries such as food/catering or tailoring. However, these activities were challenged by economic, regulatory, and gendered contexts that appeared to push the women to operate these businesses in unregulated bounds, which was not financially rewarding. Key informants, on the other hand, seemed to promote feminized entrepreneurship as a “social enterprise” irrespective of the women’s background and experience. The paper presents new empirical evidence of entrepreneurship at the intersections of refugee and gender in Canada and adds to the growing body of work that examines migrant contexts that impact economic integration.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Sonja Senthanar and Ellen MacEachen. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Sonja Senthanar and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sonja Senthanar.

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The data that support the findings of this study are not publicly available due to privacy and consent restrictions of participating women and key informants.

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Senthanar, S., MacEachen, E., Premji, S. et al. Entrepreneurial experiences of Syrian refugee women in Canada: a feminist grounded qualitative study. Small Bus Econ 57, 835–847 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-020-00385-1

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Keywords

  • Syrian refugee
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Gender
  • Canada

JEL classification

  • J16
  • J61
  • L26