Addressing Canada’s Urban Post-Covid Gender Gap

Mind the Gap:

The Post-COVID Gender Gap in Canada’s Cities

Read CUI’s conversation primer, which provides a snapshot of what we know today about gender and COVID in Canada’s cities

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Un résumé des idées, des thèmes et des citations les plus convaincants de cette conversation franche

Women are care providers: they deserve to be care receivers

Covid-19 has revealed many cracks in the foundations of our society, but none more plainly than the burden women, and disproportionately Black, Indigenous and women of colour, carry as providers of care in their communities without monetary reimbursement or structural support for their labour. Paulette Senior, president and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, points out that Canada’s care economy relies heavily on undervalued and often free time and work overwhelmingly put in by women. The time to completely reevaluate the societal importance and economic value of care is now. Women in these roles, officially and unofficially, need and deserve access to compensation and support for their caregiving.

To foster prosperity, think small

As the federal government pours billions into structural and infrastructural recovery from the pandemic, much more can be accomplished than the structure themselves by thinking about where the money goes and to whom. Community benefits agreements like the ones Rosemarie Powell’s Toronto Community Benefits Network advocates for ensure that infrastructure investment money stays in and enriches the communities around the projects. Powell believes that, “people need to have the chance to be able to participate in building up their own communities”, and community benefits agreements allow community members to take active roles in the local and national recovery process. Regional, community-focused efforts to bolster women’s involvement in projects like these have a ripple effect across the entire community. As women prosper, so does everyone around them.

The “greed economy” is made up. Let’s change it

The economy of Canada and the world at large is meant to serve all of us and the fact that it’s not, isn’t an unshakeable truth. The barriers that are built into our systems are increasingly obvious to see. Rethinking how we reshape our economy is needed and entrepreneurs are the people for the job. The pandemic has given entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs, a clear vision of what needs to be done away within the culture of business. This is the chance to “decolonize ourselves and to really interrogate the rules that we think we have”, says SheEO founder Vicki Saunders. Financial resources, social influence and cultural power can all be wielded by the people who start and control businesses to find who in our communities needs help or support and deliver that support, without sacrificing what it means to do good business.

Confront toxic capitalism to rearrange prosperity

There are around one million self-employed women in the Canadian economy, the vast majority of whom are the sole employees of their businesses or run companies of fewer than four. Unlike male entrepreneurs, many female entrepreneurs start their own businesses out of necessity, because “they’ve had trauma in the mainstream waged environment,” as entrepreneur Petra Kassin-Mutch explains, and want to change the fundamental climate of business rather than suffer it. Woman entrepreneurs can often fall through the cracks of aid and have been during the pandemic. What’s needed is not more loans and more debt, but networks of mutual aid, gendered innovations centers, and incubators that fund innovations by people doing business outside the mainstream path of venture capital. With supports such as these, equitable redistribution of prosperity will be possible in a way “normal” capitalism cannot offer.

Measure for change 

Panelists resoundingly agreed that going back to the way things were is not an acceptable plan of action, both because the “old normal” simply did not serve all Canadians and because there has never been such a clear opportunity to critically examine, take apart and rebuild. While this process must partially stem from the federal government, local communities will play an enormous role. Local governments and leaders addressing the crises faced by their citizens “are well-placed to apply a gender lens to their response, recovery planning and decision making”, mayor of Strathroy-Caradoc and president of the Federation of Canadian Counties Joanne Vanderheyden says. As the level of government closest to citizens, municipalities are best positioned to make an intersectional study of how the pandemic has affected Canadians and produce comprehensive data on the subject.