Hamilton Chamber Launches Report “Women out of Work: Assessing Hamilton’s Employment Disparities During COVID-19”

· by c.dambrosio@hamiltonchamber.ca

AUGUST 11, 2021 – HAMILTON, ON: At a virtual launch event on Wednesday, August 11, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce released “Women out of Work: Assessing Hamilton’s Employment Disparities During COVID-19”. This report heard from nearly 1,600 self-identified women over the course of 2020-2021 and highlights the local impact of COVID-19 on women’s careers and livelihood.

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected female-dominated sectors in Canada and women are facing excessive barriers to re-entering the workforce. The Women out of Work report reveals that in Hamilton, this is no exception.

The full report can be viewed online at WomenOutOfWork.ca.

The Women out of Work report identified the following
Key Findings:

  1. Women’s primary jobs and financial situations have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, especially women with disabilities and those who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour)
  2. The hospitality industry has been the most heavily impacted sector.
  3. Women-owned businesses are struggling due to COVID-19.
  4. Women are serving as the primary caregiver within their families and are overwhelmed trying to balance work with added childcare / homeschooling responsibilities.
  5. Women are greatly concerned about their mental health.

Key Statistics coming out of the Women out of Work report:

  • Childcare – As a result of their children being out of school or childcare due to the pandemic, 69% of respondents with children reported that they were feeling overwhelmed trying to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
  • Mental Health – 83% of respondents were worried or somewhat worried about new or increased feelings of anxiety, and 72% of respondents were worried or somewhat worried about the long-term impacts of the pandemic on their mental health.
  • Sector Impacts – 88% of respondents who worked in hospitality prior to the pandemic experienced negative job impacts, the highest number of any sector we analyzed.
  • Equity – BIPOC respondents were twice as likely as white respondents to indicate they were struggling financially in January 2021 (second lockdown).

The voices of Hamilton women came through loud and clear.
Hear what some of the anonymous women surveyed had to say:

  • “Gender inequality is real. COVID has highlighted it. I am trapped.”
  • “It is impossible to do all of the roles at the same time. I feel guilty for not being able to give my full attention to anyone or anything. It is a constant struggle of not feeling like I am doing enough while simultaneously doing everything.” 
  • “I feel like it has perpetuated the idea that women/mothers aren’t cut out for senior leadership roles.”
  • “I wish it was more built into workplace culture to take breaks and focus on mental health instead of ramping up and doing even more than before. I feel like a lot of managers don’t know how to model this well for staff.”

The Women out of Work report includes an outline of the Hamilton Chamber’s qualitative and quantitative findings, identifies barriers to entry and sustained workforce participation, and a discussion of the implications this will have on Hamilton’s labour market.

The report concludes with a series of detailed, tangible policy recommendations – from workforce development strategies, to increase investments in child care, and inclusive human resource policies – that will help in moving Hamilton towards an equitable and inclusive recovery. The recommendations are designed to advocate for women occupying all sectors, at all stages of their employment journeys.

Looking to assess the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hamilton’s labour market, and provide concrete recommendations on how to best encourage women to remain in and re-enter the workforce, the Hamilton Chamber led a multi-pronged research study. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario and completed in partnership with the YWCA Hamilton, Workforce Planning Hamilton, and Goodwill, The Amity Group.

“Since the immediate impact of the first wave, Hamilton women have disproportionately had their careers impacted, their finances strained, and their expectations for unpaid work increase. The onus for recovery cannot and should not solely fall to them. Through a focussed and collaborative response between employers, government, educational institutions and unions, Hamilton women can be equipped with the policies and support needed to regain lost ground.”
    – Marie Nash, Chief Operating Officer, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce 

“Full economic recovery is not possible if women are not included. Nor is it possible if women are not provided with fair and equitable opportunities for workforce participation. This is not a women’s issue – it’s a universal issue that heavily impacts the health of our local businesses and economy.”
    – Katie Stiel, Report Project Manager, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce

“The Hamilton Chamber has stepped up once again, along with community partners, with this report on women and the COVID-19 pandemic. The report takes a microscope and examines in detail the impacts of the pandemic on women in various sectors in our community. I look forward to continuing to work with the Chamber to identify and implement the necessary changes needed to improve the circumstances of all women in Hamilton.”
    – Mayor Fred Eisenberger, City of Hamilton

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected female-dominated sectors in Canada and women are facing excessive barriers to re-entering the workforce. In light of recent employment figures stemming from COVID-19, the forthcoming recession has been dubbed the first “she-session.”

The significant drop in employment has hit female-dominated service-sector jobs the hardest. Retail, restaurants, childcare centres, and hotels are particularly vulnerable to the shutdown, many of which closed down completely.

For general inquiries
Marie Nash
Chief Operating Officer

For media inquiries
Cassandra D’Ambrosio
Manager of Marketing & Communications

For project details
Katie Stiel
Project Manager