Nola Andaya-Milani is a Filipina entrepreneur and founder of the Migrentrepreneur Woman Blog. She has an MA in Comparative Local Development and a masters in Cultural Management. Connect with her on Twitter: @nola24.
I became conscious of the link, or lack thereof, between immigrant women and entrepreneurship when I became an immigrant myself.
Fresh with a Masters degree in local development and a romantic wedding in Paris, I found myself settling in a small city, first in northern Italy, then a few month later in a small city in the south of France. After years of easily finding any job I wanted or having positions created for me in my home country, I assumed that I could get a job as easily in France.
Yes, you guessed it. It wasn’t the case.
I applied for several jobs but there was always someone who had more appropriate qualifications. Living in a small city, there were not many organizations that could use my skills. And my French was only good enough to speak about the weather. So to make a long story short, it seemed that I was not qualified for any job. I began to doubt my capabilities and my years of professional experience that suddendly didn’t seem to count anymore.
I started to lose hope. But remembering what my mother always tells me, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” I thought that if I couldn’t find a job, I’d make one for myself. And that’s when I decided that I would become an entrepreneur.
I also thought that if I went through this, other women could be going through it too. And maybe, they needed to realize that they too could create their own opportunities. From there came the idea of a blog and network that reaches out to other immigrant women in Europe to promote entrepreneurship and address issues specific to them.
Immigrant women are said to have a double disadvantage. Existing gender stratification in the labor market in addition to non-recognition of diplomas and professional experience, absence of local networks, lack of language skills and a limited understanding of the host culture and in some cases, discrimination, are some factors that restrict women’s employment opportunities.
But entrepreneurship offers immigrant women opportunities for economic development, social inclusion, as well as autonomy and self-realization.
And where others see a double disadvantage, I saw a double advantage.
Being immigrants, we are straddling two countries, two cultures. This means, we have two resources to draw from and two markets (not to mention the global market) to explore. All we need is to realize that we can create our own opportunities through entrepreneurship.
This is my first blog for The Story Exchange, where I will be exploring topics related to immigrant women entrepreneurship. If you have questions or suggestions regarding this topic, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.