Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Shana Rae, I am a white cis-gender heterosexual woman of privilege living in rural Ontario. I have had an amazing journey exploring my colonial roots. I have racism in my DNA, and it informs the work that I am doing and evolving into…and that leads to what I’m doing now. I started a media disruption company called Radar Media.
I’m the CEO, the founder, and I host and produce a podcast called Clearing a New Path. There’s also a weekly newsletter by the same name. And I say we – meaning me, so far – started a research arm of Radar Media just last year, and I’m really excited about that. We have some new stuff coming out really soon.
I’d like to hear a little bit more about the podcast, what kinds of topics do you discuss?
Well, the reason I started the podcast in the first place was because I was a radio journalist for a decade. Then I worked in communications, PR, and community engagement for another decade. The last position that I held was working with rural entrepreneurs across Ontario, and what I found was folks from marginalized groups, and under-recognized voices.
I was collecting stories, and I never lost my love for audio storytelling. I never lost my love for hearing from other people and learning from other people. My now-spouse and I sat down and tried to figure out how much money it would cost for me to leave my job just to pay the basic bills. And I approached a sponsor and the sponsor agreed to that exact amount of money. So I knew that it was the right thing.
I started the podcast, and the first season was focused on woman-identifying, non binary, and queer entrepreneurs across rural Canada. But then the freedom convoy happened. For me, that meant that I wanted to cover more provocative, urgent issues facing rural Canada.
So now I say that I am trying to build a more united, progressive, feminist, anti-racist, rural Canada through the podcast and the newsletter. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some virtual town halls, and the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce has partnered with me on a couple of those, and I’m super grateful for that.
What barriers have you encountered?
What I hear, and what I see, is access to capital. We hear this over and over again, with women in particular.
There was a woman that I interviewed who was pregnant. She went to her bank manager in rural Canada, and the bank manager pointed at her belly and says, “What are we going to do when the baby comes?” This is not, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, this is NOW, and this is the reality for many people in rural Canada, specifically women.
You see what’s happening in rural Canada with Pride right now. It is scary, the amount of vitriol and intolerance that we’re facing. And it’s something that we don’t want to talk about, but we really need to talk about it. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, but those are the kind of uncomfortable conversations that we need to have. So I would say barriers would be uncomfortableness; folks not willing to talk openly about problems and issues.
Underlying racism, homophobia, transphobia, and those sorts of things, are not barriers in particular. Those are barriers that I – as a white woman of privilege – need to use what power I have, the privilege that I have, to be able to draw attention to those barriers and act as a shield in a lot of cases.
What’s your forecast for women entrepreneurs in the next five years?
I hope that folks recognize whatever size your business is: DEI. If you’re not active now embedding that into your policies, into your mission statements, and into the heartbeat of your business, then you will be left behind.
There is money to be had, there is innovation yet to happen. There is a lot to be learned from black, indigenous, and people of color. The vibrancy that different people bring to business is lacking. You should be actively ensuring that you have DEI baked into the DNA of your business. And if you don’t, you’re already behind, you’re already swimming behind the boat.
To me, I think it’s important having more women, more people of color, and having people be able to show up authentically as themselves and roam freely throughout the business world. It’s important also for chambers of commerce – look at the Canadian Women’s Chamber offering – to even the playing field. That’s what equity is.
Those are the changes we’re gonna see in the next five years. If your company isn’t acting on DEI now, I think that you’re going to be left behind. It’s part of innovation, it’s part of productivity, it’s part of pulling apart systems like patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, and colonialism.
And if you’re not, be sure to have a lot of vulnerable, uncomfortable conversations. I am apologizing a lot lately, but it’s because I need to unlearn what I was brought up with. I have to do a lot of listening. I have to do a lot of speaking up. Because I have had the comfort of the privilege that I have.
Other folks need to recognize that too, because five years from now, things are going to look a lot different. Today’s youth understand it. So if you want to keep working for them, you have to realize that it’s going to be a different world. And I’m excited about that. Super excited. I think everyone should be.
What’s a piece of advice that you would like to share?
Well, I am a woman in my mid-50s, and there is a lot of competition between women for positions in the workplace. But I don’t want to have any part of that anymore. It’s a trick; it’s a capitalist trick to have us compete with one another.
I think if we have the most generous assumptions about people if they’re mean or want to compete with you…why? What is their fear at the root of that? On the other side of that, though, is boundaries. So that’s another thing that I’m not great at, and hard to learn is you can show people how to treat you, just by saying no, just by saying, This is what I will accept, this is what I want. These are the times when you can reach me, these are the times when I’m unavailable. This is what I do have a capacity for, and this is what I don’t.
If I had learned that long ago I wouldn’t have had to wait until this age to get to a place where my nervous system doesn’t feel in fight or flight constantly. My advice is to take time for yourself. Meditation has saved my life.
And never, ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something, even your family. I think a lot of entrepreneurs get worried – specifically women – when we don’t have cheerleaders when we don’t have folks that know our value or our worth.
If you believe in your heart that it’s going to work, and this is what you were meant to do, this is your purpose. I don’t let anyone else tell you that it’s not. Trust your instincts. I wish I would have learned that a long time ago.
What does success look like to you?
That’s a really interesting question. I started the way I did because I wanted to know what would life be like if we took everyone’s titles away. What if, when you were walking onto a stage, someone introduced you by the things that you did in your community, not the monikers after your name, or your title? How would that change things change the way we see each other?
To me, success is being able to lift others up and bring others who aren’t being recognized into the spotlight. Changing conversations, sparking conversations for change. Making sure people are paid a fair wage. If all of us can move freely throughout the world as our authentic selves. If I’m alive when that happens, and I’m a small little part of that. I’d be really happy. That would be a success for me.
What’s kept you feeling driven and motivated?
My mom taught me to always give back, especially when you’re feeling low. We were driving back to her house one day and she stopped at a house I didn’t recognize. She ran in and came back out. And I said, What was that? Well, she had won a $100 gift certificate from Sears, and she had dropped it off at that women’s shelter.
And so I always think of those situations and recognize when things could have been worse. There’s always someone worse off. I have so much privilege. Just being grateful at the moment really helps you get through. Be grateful for the people in your life. Be grateful for the things that you have and the support that you have.
What made you sign up for CanWCC?
I met Nancy at the very first Equal Futures summit in Ottawa last year. However, before that, I reached out to the Canadian Women’s Chamber to ask for their assistance in hosting these virtual town halls. And they immediately said, Yes, how can we help?
The support has been phenomenal. And I became a member, obviously, but the work that the organization is doing – specifically, ensuring that everyone can be a member. The things that Nancy and her team are fighting for are what I believe in. So it’s an easy, easy organization to support, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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