TORONTO – The COVID-19 crisis is having a disproportionate economic impact on women, with women’s labour participation rate falling to its lowest in 30 years, says a new Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) report.
It notes existing systemic inequalities have been further exacerbated by recent shutdown measures, resulting in what some economists are calling a “she-cession,” as more women have lost their jobs and fewer women than men are regaining employment.
The OCC released its latest report at the beginning of September entitled The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario, which lays out a path to Ontario’s “she-covery” by providing recommendations to confront both immediate and longer-term challenges.
Major takeaways include:
- Leadership and accountability begin with a commitment from stakeholders to set collective targets, reward diversity, include women in decision-making bodies, and apply a gender and diversity lens to their strategies, policies, and programs for recovery.
- Child care requires a short-term strategy to weather the pandemic and longer-term, system-wide reforms to improve accessibility and affordability.
- Workforce development initiatives should focus on defining critical skills, accelerating women’s reskilling, and ensuring their skills are utilized – with a focus on increasing their participation in skilled trade, technology and engineering roles in fast-growing sectors.
- Entrepreneurship should be understood as a pathway to economic growth, and an inclusive ecosystem is critical to supporting diverse women entrepreneurs.
- Flexible work arrangements are one way to level the playing field for women and improve organizational outcomes.
“The economic impacts of the pandemic were direct and immediate for women in Ontario,” said Claudia Dessanti, senior policy analyst of the OCC, in a statement. “Temporary business shutdowns during the state of emergency most severely affected sectors that predominantly employ women. Restrictions on schools and paid child care facilities have shifted additional hours of unpaid family care onto parents, and this work has largely been taken up by mothers. The pandemic experience has been especially challenging for already vulnerable groups, including racialized women, Indigenous women, single mothers, low-income women, newcomers and women with disabilities.”
“The crisis is far from over for working women. As the economy begins to gradually reopen, women are seeing slower re-employment than men; between April and July, employment gains in Ontario were 158,400 for men and only 95,500 for women,” said Dr. Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute founder and academic director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. “We risk turning back the clock on decades of progress if we do not take a hard look at the challenges facing women and plan for recovery with women at the table and a gender and diversity lens on strategies, programs and policies.”