Reflections for International Women’s Day 2021

Guest contributor: Catrina Kronfli (ISS Class of 2013)

During my undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Toronto, I was always interested in courses that examined gender. When I entered the ISS program at Ryerson, I wanted my MRP to examine gender in some way. I was also intrigued by the idea of using critical discourse analysis to analyze newspaper articles.

My MRP, entitled Nannies Strike Back, blended these 2 interests. I examined the representation of live-in caregivers and the Live-In Caregiver Program in 11 Canadian newspapers and 5 Filipino-Canadian newspapers between 2007 and 2013. My research revealed that the mainstream Canadian press portrayed live-in caregivers and their children as powerless and victims, while the Filipino-Canadian press provided a space to empower these women and resist mainstream portrayals.

Although I didn’t pursue this topic after graduation, I’ve remained interested in issues around gender, the labour market, and the economy. While working at the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, I led the association’s women in engineering file. I prepared policy submissions that examined the barriers that women face in the profession (i.e., pay inequities, negative workplace cultures, lack of mentors, etc.). I also wrote articles that raised the profile of female engineers, and organized events – including one of the largest women in engineering conferences that attracted 800 attendees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges for women and reignited conversations around child care. Recognizing this, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released The She-Covery Project last June, which was authored by my colleague. The report found the pandemic is having a disproportionate economic impact on women, leading to what economists have termed a “she-cession.” Women between the ages of 25 and 54 lost more than twice as many jobs as men in Ontario in March 2020, and women’s labour force participation fell to its lowest in 30 years. The economic impact from the pandemic has been difficult for certain groups of women, including single mothers, low-income, racialized, immigrant, and Indigenous women.

What caused these job losses? First, the OCC’s report found that women are more likely to be employed in sectors that were most impacted by the pandemic (i.e., retail, food and accommodations, etc.). Second, the closure of schools and daycare centres meant parents had to take on caregiving and homeschooling duties and, generally, child care has fallen on mothers. Since then, women have seen slower reemployment rates than men. As the report explains, this situation puts women at a higher risk of future wage penalties and long-term separation from the labour market.

What can be done to address the she-cession? The OCC’s report provides policymakers with recommendations to tackle 5 critical areas, including improving access to and affordability of child care. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge. With the she-cession putting decades of progress towards gender equality in jeopardy, now more than ever, systemic barriers to women’s workforce participation need to be called out and prioritized.

The ISSAA would like to thank Catrina for preparing this post. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please contact the ISSAA’s Communications Committee at issaa@ryerson.ca

Published by Immigration and Settlement Studies Alumni Association

ISSAA is an independent group of alumni from Ryerson University's Master in Immigration and Settlement Studies. We provide a forum to engage and serve our communities through leadership opportunities, professional affiliation, and partnerships.

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