Leading Canada’s ‘shecovery’ from the ground up and the role of cities 

June 22, 2021 — The Canadian Urban Institute in partnership with the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario are bringing diverse experts from across the country together for a ‘shecovery’ summit to build off of the hard work already underway to rebuild our economy and close the gender gap that has increased in Canadian cities and urban centres since the beginning of the pandemic.   

Early in the pandemic, experts began ringing the alarm bells about the impacts of the pandemic on women and girls, including the overrepresentation of women in healthcare and service occupations, where they faced greater health and safety risks, the enormous unpaid workload, mostly borne by women, of children learning at home and the heightened threat to women and girls experiencing domestic violence through lockdowns. We also learned about the highly gendered economic impacts. One year into the pandemic, the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey revealed that:   

  • Almost half a million Canadian women who initially lost their jobs during the pandemic had yet to return, including 100,000 women who completely exited the labour force (compared to fewer than 10,000 men)  
  • Twelve times as many mothers with school aged children left their jobs, compared to fathers with school aged children  
  • Young (Gen-Z) women make up 2.5 percent of the Canadian labour force but account for 17 percent of the total decline in employment during the pandemic  

Women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises, which represent over $117 billion per annum of economic activity in Canada were no exception. A staggering 61% of female business  founders have lost contracts, customers and clients due to COVID, according to a recent report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.   

The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report states the global gender gap has “increased by a generation” over the past year and estimates that it will now take 136 years for women to reach parity in terms of economic opportunity, political power, education and health—an increase of 36 years from the 2020 report.  

A report published today by the Canadian Urban Institute, provides a snapshot of some of these obstacles, based on a survey of more than 180,000 Canadians conducted by Advanis. It applies an intentional intersectional lens to the data, moving beyond the typical binary reporting of gender data. What’s clear from the findings is this: how we experience the pandemic is dependent on who we are and where we live.  

  • When asked about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the household, 64% non-binary and 46% female-identifying reported a major impact—compared to 39% male-identifying individuals 
  • In April 2020, 19% of all female-identifying respondents reported their mental health to be “excellent” and 33% reported it to be “very good.” By May 2021, these numbers dropped to 12% and 22% respectively 
  • Female identifying respondents are one and half times more likely to report feeling impacted by the situation of someone close to them (child, elderly relative) 

How do we recover the progress we have lost and emerge from the pandemic with a renewed commitment to gender equality? While we don’t have all the answers, we know that cities and urban centres across Canada will play a huge role in this recovery. In addition to the release of the Mind the Gap: The Post-COVID Gender Gap in Canada’s Cities report, CUI is partnering with the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario to discuss what these solutions look like through two public events on June 24, 2021: 

Through these conversations, we hope to have a better understanding of what kind of leadership will be needed—from governments, the private sector and civil society—to meaningfully address the gender gap in cities across the country as we emerge from this global crisis. To register for an event or to read the report, visit https://canurb.org/leading-canadas-shecovery-from-the-ground-up. 


“The COVID pandemic has widened the gender gap in our cities. We’re going backwards in the fight for equality. Women are more likely to report feelings of despair, more concerned about their jobs and were 10 times more likely to completely exit the labour force during the pandemic despite being over-represented in the healthcare and service industries. Join us June 24 along with the Pay Equity Commissioner of Ontario and other leading voices to talk about what needs to change for women and girls in this country.” 

Mary W. Rowe, President and CEO, Canadian Urban Institute  

“Women, work and equity are at the core of innovation, inclusive prosperity and the way forward out of this recession. As Canada’s gender gap widens with this pandemic, we must ask critical questions about what communities across Canada can and must do to close our gender gap. Ontario’s Pay Equity Office is thrilled to partner with the Canadian Urban Institute to lead this discussion on designing solutions that will drive inclusive economic recovery.” 

Kadie Ward, Ontario Pay Equity Commissioner   

and Chief Administrative Officer, Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development 

“Libro Credit Union is more than just a financial institution. We invest 100% of our profits back into the people, businesses and communities we serve. One of the ways we do this is by getting involved in important conversations and supporting organizations helping to address some of the most challenging issues facing our region, like Employment and Financial Resilience. The COVID pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and BIPOC communities and Libro will continue to use our business a force for good in supporting an economic ‘she-covery’.” 

Tania Goodine, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Innovation, Libro Credit Union 

Dhaneva Skogstad
416-365-0816 ext 237 

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