Women in the workforce – Is COVID-19 setting us back?


Canada has reached the lowest level of women in the workforce in almost 30 years, as this downturn in our economy is being dubbed the “She-cession.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 1/3 of Canadian women have considered leaving their full-time jobs to care for children, (compared to only 1/5 of men), according to a study conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights.

My question: how much of this is a conscious decision based on finances and personal preference, and how much is based on traditional gender roles rearing their ugly heads?

Factors Affecting Women during COVID-19

Specific industries are still male or female-dominated.

During COVID, female-dominated industries (retail, hospitality, childcare, etc.) have been hit the hardest. According to Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, women lost almost 50% more work hours in February and March, when the pandemic first hit, and accounted for 62% of job losses!

As our country reopens, these industries remain the hardest hit and will be the last to resume ‘normal’ operations.

Women still hold the majority of childcare responsibilities.

A Canadian survey asked 1,452 women between the ages of 18 and 65 about gender stereotypes81% of these women still feel pressure to cover cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. A comparable number also felt men are still expected to take care of the traditional ‘male chores,’ such as working on the car or doing home repairs.

“Globally, women spend significantly more time than men — often up to 10 times as much — on unpaid care, volunteer, and domestic work.”

Women are more likely to feel guilt over spending less time with their kids.

According to Pamela Jeffery (the visionary behind the Prosperity Project), women feel guiltier than men over spending more time working and less time with children. Women are also more likely to feel stress over dividing their time between work and kids.  This guilt can cause them to work fewer hours or pass up promotions.

As parents are forced to make the difficult decision between distance learning and sending kids back into schools, this ‘mom guilt’ has reached new levels! Many women have decided to take time away from work, either leaving their jobs, or reducing their hours so they can be home to help with schooling.


How do we move forward?

  • Don’t assume you have to quit your job – speak to your employer about options, particularly if childcare is an issue or an immune-compromised family member is in your home.
  • Seek options – Be creative! How can you earn money in a different way from a traditional job? Can you start a little side hustle? Continuing some type of work, even part-time, is an excellent way for you to not only contribute to your family’s finances but give a boost to the economy (more money in your home = more spending = boost to the economy). It also helps to boost confidence, create friendships, and build connections.
  • Lean on your partner – Remember, you alone are NOT responsible for all household and childcare duties in your home. Yes, if your partner is still working full-time and you are home, most of those responsibilities will understandably fall on you. BUT remember, you also deserve time off, time to yourself, and time to have fun! GUILT FREE. You need it to be the best you can be.
  • Teach your boys to do dishes. – Yes, some women are consciously choosing to stay home with their kids. And if that is what you want to do, do you! Whatever works best for you and your family looks different for everyone. But we need to continue addressing the traditional gender roles that still exist in our society. We should NOT assume that cooking, cleaning, and childcare is “women’s work” (let’s abolish that term).

We need to continue to do our part for future generations. Roles and responsibilities should NOT be determined by gender! We can provide this example to our kids in our homes – teach your boys to do dishes and praise your girls for being natural-born leaders.

  • Support groups such as the Prosperity Project, which was founded to help women reduce the impacts of COVID-19.

Progress can be slow. We need to continue to support each other as women, as mothers, as businesswomen, and entrepreneurs, recognizing that each one of us is unique. Our ‘roles’ should be based on preferences and strengths not what we think we ‘should’ be doing!


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