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Co-Hosted Webinars & Workshops,  COVID-19 Support

She-Covery: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women

BY MADISON BURDGE, SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING INTERN, CFHURON – The She-Covery project was created to confront the gendered economic impact of COVID-19. The webinar that was held on September 23rd, by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) canvasses the several ways in which this happens.  

First, temporary business shutdowns and layoffs during the state of emergency most severely affected occupations and sectors that predominantly employ women. Second, these sectors are those in which women entrepreneurs are more likely to operate, and their businesses tend to be newer, smaller, and less well-financed than those owned by men. Third, restrictions on schools and paid childcare facilities have shifted additional hours of unpaid family care onto parents, and this work has largely been taken up by mothers. Fourth, while women are dominating the frontline responses to the COVID pandemic, they have not been included in the planning for recovery.   

As well, the pandemic has also exacerbated existing inequality and has been especially challenging for certain groups of women, including racialized women, Indigenous women, single mothers, low-income women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, and those living in rural areas. 

Farther into the discussion, the speakers discuss solutions to confront both immediate and longer-term challenges. Their critical findings include 5 main sectors that need an intersectional lens to ensure no women are left behind. These sectors are: leadership and accountability, childcare, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and flexible work arrangement. 

 Here is a brief summary of their recommendations to fix the gap: 

Leadership and Accountability 

– Launch an Ontario She-Covery campaign with targets for women’s economic recovery 

– Use procurement to incentivize diversity and inclusion 

– Include women in all decision-making bodies around economic recovery 

Childcare 

 Prepare for a second wave 

– Improve long-term affordability and accessibility of child care 

– Address the shortage of early childhood educators 

– Explore creative solutions ranging from in-program changes to workplace-based child care 

Workforce Development  

 Support women’s reskilling 

– Scale interventions proven to increase women’s representation in skilled trades, engineering, technology, leadership roles, and other traditionally male-dominant sectors and occupations 

Entrepreneurship 

– Foster an inclusive innovation ecosystem for entrepreneurs 

Flexible Work Arrangement 

– Consider policy options to encourage more employers to offer flexible work arrangements 

The Bigger Picture 

Some context is needed to illustrate why decades of progress towards economic empowerment are at stake. Women’s participation in the labor market has increased dramatically over the past half-century. Between 1976 and 2019, the participation gap between men and women in Ontario narrowed from 39 percentage points to 9 points.  

Women now occupy 48 percent of all jobs in the province. The number of female entrepreneurs has also grown three times faster than the number of men entrepreneurs over the past 40 years. Such momentum has been possible because both the public and private sectors have taken steps to enable women to participate more fully in paid work through targeted programs, family benefits, workplace accommodations, and support for broader cultural change.  

Conclusion 

As COVID-19 propelled women’s labor force participation to a record low, it presented a fork in the road for gender equality in Ontario. Whether the pandemic will set back workplace diversity or accelerate it will depend almost entirely on how decision-makers in both the public and private sectors approach economic recovery. Solutions outlined in this webinar would not only support women but place the economy on an even stronger growth trajectory than before the pandemic.  

Further reading

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