The Disproportionate Impact of COVID on Women
We’ve now been living in a global pandemic for an entire year, and it’s impossible to ignore the impacts it’s had on all of our lives. Unfortunately, women have been disproportionately impacted. Despite being in the twenty-first century, we are still experiencing gender inequality in the workplace and the pandemic has resulted in a regressive effect on gender inequality. So, let’s discuss how women have been impacted by COVID and what we can do about it.
Impacts of COVID on Canadian Women
In the past year, women were more likely to drop out of the workforce than men. This is not only based on the type of work women are more likely to hold, but the increased burden of unpaid labour, such as childcare. A recent report noted 50% of women in BC are employed in roles most affected by the public health measures, including health care, retail, education and food services. Also, working mothers in BC, aged 24 to 55, lost 26% of their work hours in April of 2020. While only 14% of work hours were lost by working fathers.
There have also been increased safety concerns for women. Not only are women’s jobs, work stability, and work hours at risk but they’re also more likely to hold positions that increase their exposure risk compared to men. For example, in retail, women are more likely to be cashiers or other roles that interact directly with the public, while men are more likely to be in management positions. But that’s not the only increased risk to women’s safety.
Stay-at-home orders have increased women’s risk of domestic violence. Prior to the pandemic, a Canadian woman was killed every 6 days by her partner. A recent report found 16% of women perceived an increase in their risk of domestic violence as a result of the pandemic.
Women as Caregivers
Women tend to be natural caregivers which impacts them in numerous ways when it comes to a public health emergency. As we already mentioned, they’re more likely to drop out of the workforce, or significantly reduce their hours to care for children and other loved ones. Not only does this impact their financial stability but also impacts their mental health.
Women are also more likely to be in caregiving roles in the workplace. For example, in 2019, 91% of nurses in Canada were women. The burden on the health care system has taken a mental and emotional toll on front-line workers such as nurses. So much so that a number of nurses say they may consider leaving the profession.
How Can We Support Women
To support women during a situation such as this, it’s important to address the short-term crisis as well as the underlying problems. Canadians have been provided with some short-term financial support that has had an important impact on women across the country, but for many, this isn’t enough.
Addressing Women’s Mental Health
Workplace policies and financial support can go a long way in supporting women now and in the future. That being said, it’s also important to think about how COVID and gender inequality impact womens’ mental health.
It’s easy to say women should prioritize self-care or seek professional support for their mental health but, of course, it’s never that simple. Women are often overwhelmed with unpaid labour such as child care, elder care, and other domestic work. While simultaneously juggling other responsibilities such as their participation in the workforce which often includes multiple part-time jobs. This makes it a challenge to take time for self-care or therapy appointments.
While virtual therapy has made mental health support more accessible, there are other challenges in accessing mental health supports. Money is another significant factor. Even workplaces with comprehensive health benefits often don’t provide sufficient mental health support. And those in part-time, temporary, or contract positions typically don’t receive any health benefits.
At Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych & Associates, we aim to support the mental health and wellness of all British Columbia residents. We provide numerous free mental health resources on our website, including a growing suite of wellness challenges, as well as counsellors who provide support based on a sliding scale.
How to Support Women
The Canadian Women’s Foundation launched the Tireless Together Fund. It’s a national emergency fund to provide critical support to women and girls through the COVID-19 crisis. They’re also working with the Government of Canada to deliver emergency funding to some services. As well as advocating for a gender lens on policies implemented during and in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Learn more about how you can support women in Canada by supporting the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
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