Bill to Support Native Women Entrepreneurs Passes New Mexico House

 A bill seeking to appropriate $200,000 from the general fund to the Indian Affairs Department to create the first Native American Women’s Business Institute in New Mexico passed the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee yesterday.

Native Women Lead is pushing the bill, because “Native women are 2/3 the breadwinners in our families (nationally) and we make 58 cents to the dollar. It is time for us [to] invest in our Native women because we are the leaders out of poverty and keepers of our families,” the organization states. In contrast, the average white woman with a full-time job makes 82 cents for every dollar a white man earns.

Approximately 500 Native women representing more than 50 Tribes nationally have started businesses.

“Entrepreneurship is one pathway out of poverty,” Alicia Ortega, Pojoaque Pueblo and Santa Clara, and a co-founder of Native Women Lead,  told NM Political Report.

HEAR MORE: Podcast Episode 8: The Power of Native Women in Business 

House Bill 262 is sponsored by Rep. Georgene Lewis, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. D. Wonda Johnson, D-Rehoboth. The committee unanimously voted 7-0 to approve the bill. Rep. Damon Ely, D-Corrales, and Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, were absent. 

A vital focus of the Native American Women’s Business Institute would be to gather data on the number of Native American women owners in New Mexico.

A report released by Native Women Lead last year shed light on the incredible ascent of Native women entrepreneurs and business leaders nationwide, pulling data from national research and insight from the 2018 Native Women’s Business Summit. 

“Far too often, the voices of Native American women are left at the edges of already marginalized communities,” Jaclyn Roessel (Diné), c-founder of Native Women Lead and founder of Grownup Navajo, LLC, previously told Native Business. “Therefore, our goal was simple: to demonstrate that Native American women are community leaders, CEOs, mothers, wives, elders, and the critical drivers of Indigenous businesses that contribute $11 billion to the economy.” 

Key findings of Native Women Lead’s latest national report include:

  • In 2016, two-thirds of all American Indian and Alaska Native women in the U.S. were the primary breadwinners in their families, according to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
  • Since 1997, women-owned businesses grew by 114 percent, while Native women-owned businesses grew by 201 percent, according to American Express’ The 2017 State of Women Owned Businesses Report. 
  • 82 percent of the 200 attendees representing over 30 Tribes at the Native Women’s Business Summit would like to be a mentor in the future.

Jaime Gloshay (Diné), co-founder of Native Women Lead, added that the  median income of Native women—who are two-thirds of the time the breadwinners of their family—is $30,000.

“We need to support Native American women with policy and real, on-the-ground solutions and recognize them as the economic drivers they already are,” Gloshay told NM Political Report.

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