As part of Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy, Victoria Mancinelli of the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) said she hopes to break down the barriers women face in entering skilled trade and STEM careers as well as ensure women are part of an inclusive economic recovery following the pandemic.
Mancinelli, director of public relations, communications, marketing and strategic partnerships for LIUNA, was appointed to the committee along with women from various private and public sector roles with diverse expertise and experience. The task force is chaired by Dr. Karin Schnarr, associate professor of policy and law at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“It’s so empowering, it’s so refreshing when you have the strong leadership around the table of all women who are all actively engaged in the same thing,” said Mancinelli, adding the task force has had a preliminary meeting and plans to meet throughout the summer.
“I think the pandemic really brought to light that there needs to be changes made so that Ontario’s workforce is represented fairly….ensuring there is that inclusive, diverse workforce that can equally contribute to our economic recovery.”
It’s important to acknowledge the skillset that women bring, ensure there is the opportunity to acquire the skills but also providing support throughout their career.
“The task force is ultimately going to dismantle the structural barriers that currently exist and amplify opportunities for increased representation of women in the workforce,” she noted.
Going beyond the barriers
While the pandemic has been challenging for everybody, women, Indigenous people and visible minorities have been disproportionately affected, Mancinelli said. Many women held jobs in sectors that were hardest hit during restrictions and shutdowns.
“Just looking at all barriers, whether they are new barriers from the pandemic or pre-existing barriers, and not only eliminating all barriers but making necessary improvements as well,” said Mancinelli.
While addressing how to recruit more women into the workforce is important, retention is also critical.
“We need to be looking at what those barriers are, addressing those barriers and go beyond just entering the workforce,” Mancinelli said. “What happens when they are in the workforce? How do we keep them in this workforce so that there is that opportunity to advance?”
One of the major barriers for women and men as well is being a caregiver to children or parents.
“That is one aspect that has repeatedly come up thus far is child care, maternal support,” said Mancinelli.
As an example, she used a woman with a job on a construction site.
“If a woman has to be on the site by 7 in the morning but child care doesn’t open until 8 what does she do to get to the job if she is relying on that child care support?” asked Mancinelli. “That is an exterior barrier that is outside of her control therefore affecting her ability to work.
“We need to be addressing all factors so that way they can stay in this career path and then ultimately advance.”
Recommendations will inform government’s plan
The new task force was part of a commitment in the Ontario government’s 2021 budget and will focus on three areas relating to women’s participation in economic growth: supporting women as they enter and re-enter the workforce; supporting women’s entrepreneurship; and removing barriers for women to enter fields in which they are underrepresented, including the skilled trades and STEM.
“Having an equal access to opportunity is very important here,” said Mancinelli.
“When you have that opportunity presented then it’s that hard work and determination that will make you successful, but we have to make sure we are acknowledging the skillset that women bring to under-represented industries like construction and the skilled trades.”
Mancinelli and the rest of the task force are going to be consulting with the public and other organizations throughout the summer.
“Part of my role is I’m going to be concentrating on the skilled trades aspect and meeting with organizations,” said Mancinelli. “I am meeting with them because we, as a task force, want to be able to have the opinions of many. Everybody can bring a different light to an issue and they may have a different experience than others, so I think the consultation process is going to be imperative when we are developing our recommendations through the chair.”
Recommendations from the task force will help shape the government’s plan to strengthen the conditions for long‐term economic growth.
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