TORONTO - Covid-19’s massive disruption to employment has had a significant impact on the economy. What is troubling is that women appear to be more affected by pandemic-related changes in the labour market than men. Ontario aims to change that.
On June 25, the provincial government announced new measures, through the creation of Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy to help break down barriers women face in the economy.
At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ontario’s unemployment rate reached a high of 13.6% by the end of the second quarter in 2020, slightly lower than the national rate of 13.7%. Additional data suggests employment among men dropped by 3.1% during Covid-19. The drop was even higher among women at just over 5%.
In efforts to change that dynamic, the Task Force, chaired by Dr. Karin Schnarr, Associate Professor of Policy & Law at the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics (Wilfrid Laurier University), aims to address the unique and disproportionate barriers women encounter in the economy.
Peter Bethlenfalvy, the Minister of Finance, together with Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues along with Dr. Schnarr announced the new Task Force and why it is an important step moving forward in Ontario’s economic recovery.
“While the pandemic has challenged us all, women have been disproportionately impacted, facing higher job losses and carrying a greater burden of family care”, said Minister Bethlenfalvy. Throughout the summer of 2021, the Task Force will meet and focus on three key areas relative to women’s participation in economic growth.
As Ontario moves forward in its “Roadmap to Reopen”, the Task Force will consider measures to support women as they enter and re-enter the workforce. The team members, which encompass a broad range of expertise and experience, will assess strategies of removing barriers for women to enter fields like STEM and the skilled trades, areas in which they are typically underrepresented.
Additionally, the members will discuss ways to support women’s entrepreneurship. For instance, in 2017, a survey by Statistics Canada suggested only 15.6% of small-medium sized businesses were majority owned by women, compared to 63.5% owned by men.
Supporting women in business and in fields where they are less likely to be represented makes sense. It presents an opportunity to spur innovation, promote job creation and productivity growth in the economy, especially in a post-pandemic environment.
“Women have tremendous skills to offer employers, bringing new and innovative ideas to workplaces”, said Minister McKenna. Through the creation of the Task Force, the Minister added that it, “demonstrates our determination to ensure that women have the opportunity to be strong contributors and leaders as Ontario reopens”.