Aboriginal women with a university degree post slightly better employment rates and make more money than non-aboriginal women with the same level of education, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit women with a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree were employed 81.8 per cent compared to 79.5 per cent of their non-aboriginal counterparts in 2011, according to the analysis of the 2011 National Household Survey and other sources. The findings include on-reserve First Nations populations and Inuit populations living in the North.
The study's author concludes that the findings underline the importance of education. Aboriginal women with post-secondary education made over 3 times as much ($49,947) as aboriginal women with no post-secondary qualifications ($15,208). And they made slightly more than non-aboriginal women ($47,742) with the same level of education.
But aboriginal women still have some catching up to do. Half of aboriginal women aged 25 to 64 have a post-secondary diploma or degree compared to 65 per cent for non-aboriginal women. However, the report also showed that more younger aboriginal women were getting an education compared to older aboriginal women.
Deanna Reder is a Cree/Métis professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. She said she has witnessed many of her indigenous female students go on to accomplish great things over the years.
"I'm so inspired by the young indigenous women I have taught who have graduated and are now, or will be, changing the world." said Reder.
"Higher education opens doors you can't predict." said Reder.
But the study's findings aren't convincing everyone.
"I'm very skeptical [of the study] because I know aboriginal women who are highly educated who can't get jobs or [are] getting jobs that are lower for their education." said Emma LaRocque.
She said the statistics are encouraging but "... statistics don't begin to tell the story."
Larocque is professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. She said she personally had to fight for her job at the university. She was an instructor from 1986 to 2000. In 2001, she got full professorship but had to fight for a pay increase.
"I know things have improved but we had nowhere to go but up."
Just over 35 per cent of aboriginal women without a post secondary diploma have a job compared to over 46 per cent of non-aboriginal women.
Overall, aboriginal women were less likely than non-aboriginal women to be employed.
Aboriginal women account for four per cent of the female population in Canada.