Of the traditional Mi'kmaw songs still commonly sung today, "Jukwa'lu'k Kwe'ji'ju'ow" is perhaps one of the most popular. It can be heard at Mi'kmaw gatherings and powwows, often accompanied by a ji'kmaqn (a traditional rattle made of split ash). But it has also found its way into the popular music stylings of groups such as Morning Star and The Relatives (click here for a sample on YouTube). As I sit here reviewing my notes from the recent Women in Business Conference, held at Inverary Resort in Baddeck last week (May 3-4, 2012), this song — which translates as "Bring Your Little Sister" — pops into my head.
I can hear you now. Why would this song pop into my head following a Women in Business Conference, you ask. There were many topics discussed at the event, from the use of cloud technology to grow one's business to the issue of "home team disadvantage" when it comes to provincial and national procurement initiatives. Mi'kmaw music wasn't on the agenda. And yet I sit here, unable to get "Jukwa'lu'k Kwe'ji'ju'ow" out of my head. (I hear Lee Cremo singing it for a CBC reporter after playing it on his fiddle, a recording available at the Beaton Institute on campus.)
Of all the messages given and received on Friday, there were two that stood out for me.
The first was a comment by Deputy Minister Sandra McKenzie as she led an open discussion session about the opportunities and challenges facing Cape Breton businesses. She noted, echoing others, that there is a need to "Talk quietly amongst ourselves about what we got wrong, and loudly to anyone who will listen about what we got right." (I'm paraphrasing, since this researcher didn't have an audio recorder on hand to capture her exact words.) Her point was that women in business — and businesses in Cape Breton more generally — need to do more to promote successes instead of highlighting failures. Failures are surely learning opportunities, so discussing them and learning from them is valuable. But too often women in business and businesses in eastern Canada don't sing their own praises. This needs to change.
The second comment came from the floor. Following discussion of the need for women currently in business to mentor young women who may have a future in business, one participant challenged everyone present not only to return for the conference next year, but to "Bring your teenage daughters!" Her suggestion was enthusiastically received. Increasing the number of women in business helps to strengthen the economy, while also addressing gaps in products and services that need to be filled. One of the best ways to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in young women is to engage with them and provide them with the support necessary to acheive their goals.
Such mentorship is critical, both for the learning and networking opportunities. And so I endorse the challenge and hope that next year the women present will bring their daughters, their cousins, their neighbours, and even their little sisters to foster the future of business in Cape Breton.
Such an initiative would surely be counted as one of the things "we got right."