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International Women’s Day Reflection – Best Practices to rebuilding a gender-inclusive economy that helps women

Written by Bianca Baldo

With International Women’s Day happening today and its focus on celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility while calling out inequality, I started thinking about the impacts of COVID-19 on the many advancements that women in Canada have achieved in employment. Women carry out many roles and responsibilities, both in the formal and informal labour market. Women contribute to the economy while caring for others at home and within the community.  

As a mother of three young children being homeschooled and a caretaker for a vulnerable elderly person, I have often questioned what is best for my career, mental health, and family. Are they mutually exclusive? Can we have it all? Unfortunately, these reflections are ongoing. 

I have found comfort in honest conversations with my colleagues, friends, and family that explore solutions, expectations and limitations. My favorite saying these days is: 

“If I don’t get into an argument with my family, drop deliverables at work or forget an appointment, it’s been a good day.”  

 As a society, the weight of the she-session, its impacts on formal care structures, and issues associated with gender equality, diversity, and inclusion remain important. For women who stayed in the workplace, the struggle to balance family-work obligations, workload, and mental health exist. For those women who lost employment, left the workplace for a family reason, or have negotiated mental health issues, such as depression, burnout, or anxiety, their integration back into a post covid workplace is critical.  In both scenarios,  it remains important to look at the long-term solutions and rebuild a gender-inclusive economy that helps women achieve economic prosperity,  financial security, and work/life balance. Increasing awareness of women’s lived experiences during the pandemic can help strategize and develop best practices for a stronger tomorrow, one where Canadian women do not have to choose between career and family.  

More women have left the workplace. 

In the previous article Using GBA+, Inclusion and Diversity perspectives to support a healthy and efficient workplace, I explored some of the current gender equality issues surrounding women’s workplace participation. Since COVID-19, the number of women in Canada not in the labour market grew by 10%.  It is estimated that 1.5 million women lost their jobs in the first two months of the recession. Complementarily, statistics have shown that nine percent of Canadian women working full-time in capital markets had considered leaving their jobs or taking a leave of absence. Trends exposed connections between industries that were particularly impacted by social distancing; were also dominated by women.   

“The social distancing and lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 crisis have hit the women-majority service sector hard. Sectors whose activities involve social contacts, such as retail, hospitality, childcare, and personal services, were the first to shut down.” (Canadian Women’s Foundation)  

Women disproportionate burden of unpaid care. 

We have also seen that the already disproportionate burden of unpaid childcare being carried by women in the past has increased with the pandemic, specifically that