by pk mutch (Nov, 2022)
Economic and Marxists theorists refer to small business owners, artisans, retailers, trades folks, service providers, restauranteurs, and basically any self-employed folks as the 'petite bourgeoisie'. Today, this economic and social class is commonly referred to as the small business sector and includes micro-entrepreneurs, giggers and self-employed folks.
Not so 'petite'
The small business sector is powerful. It represents 98.1% of all incorporated companies. Self-employed individuals both registered and unregistered represents approximately 19% of the total labour force. While there are individual exceptions, on the whole this social class today still emphasizes individualism, meritocracy and tends to favours politics that work to support the status quo at best, or a return to the past at worst. Historians have noted that the 'petite'boo', although not homogeneous, can play a significant role in directing the course of human history.
Curiously, even though today the majority may not earn as much as some of their unionized contemporaries or have similar rights and protections from precarity, this dominant economic class, based on voting habits and a review of their own mainstream media outlet narratives, remains stubbornly pro-capitalist, socially conservative, and slow to change.
Case in Point
On November 8th, Radar Media release a report on the state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices in Canada's 415 Chambers of Commerce. The result?
A resounding E grade. In fact less than a third express DEI values. Even fewer actually meet minimum threshold standards at staff and/or board levels in practice
A June 2022 report by Express Employment Professionals showed just forty percent of Canadian companies report having a diversity, equity and inclusion policy, though this was up from 35% in the second half of 2020. What's worse is that "Despite continuing labour shortages, nearly half of Canadian companies surveyed (46%) do not plan to actively recruit candidates outside of their traditional demographic (e.g., having unique backgrounds, racially/ethnically diverse). That said, approximately a third (34%) says their company is planning to take such steps in 2022.
The billionaire class and their companies are not fairing much better. In August 2022, Purpose Brand reported that only 79 Fortune 500 companies – about 1 in 6 – publish annual DEI reports marking their progress.
Why Lagging Matters
The point here is: If business can't transform business, who can? And given that the case for diversity in business has been made since the 1960's, why the slow uptake?
Part of it is you can't change business unless you change the systems that shape it. And that's where feminist entrepreneurs -and other folks interested in revolutionary change versus reform - can come in.
In addition to pioneering new ways of building, operating and developing ventures, feminists everywhere, and feminist entrepreneurs in particular, realize that without the support of small business, a giant economic force and segment of society (35% of our GDP), the fight for a post-growth, post-colonial, post white supremacist and post-patriarchal economy will continue to be stymied. Thus feminist entrepreneurs work both on their business but also at political levels to counter small business inertia.
Reports such as the one pursued by Radar Media illustrates why feminist enterprise work matters beautifully. If its own leading associations and organizations are laggards, we can't expect the small business space to lead on the most important issues of our time.