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SHE-cession to SHE-covery: Why we need to engage women to see full market recovery

SHE-cession to SHE-covery

“The benefit of women returning to the workforce and participating equally with men will provide a lift in economic output for Canada of about
100 Billion Dollars each year,” says Mary DePaoli, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, RBC as she introduces WISE’s virtual event, SHE-cession to SHE-covery.  An insightful discussion and Q&A with Dawn Desjardins, Deputy Chief Economist, RBC, SHE-cession to SHE-covery unpacks the profound economic impact the pandemic has had on Canadian women.

Pre-pandemic, women were generating meaningful gains in economic equality, earning 42 percent of household income, up from 25 percent 40 years ago. DePaoli shares, “COVID-19 has threatened decades of labour force gains and has knocked women’s participation in the labour force down from historic levels back to levels that they were in the mid-to-late 1980s.” Desjardins adds that “1.5 million Canadian women lost their jobs in the first two months of the recession alone, accounting for 51 percent of total job losses in Canada and 55,000 women have left the workforce.”

Desjardins shares in-depth research on how women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and highlights three key factors that come into play:

Of the 1.5 million jobs lost in March and April, as of September 1.2 million have returned to the labour market, but we still have a gap of about 360,000 who are unemployed today that weren’t unemployed in February.

Women are working fewer hours than they were pre-pandemic and a lot of this reflects the fact that many female-dominated industries (accommodation, food services, retail, educational services, and social care) have pulled back and been gravely impacted by COVID-19. These industries alone impacted more than 50 percent of women, who either lost their jobs or are working fewer hours. 


While there are similarities in that approximately 360,000 men and women are unemployed that were employed prior to the pandemic, the most notable difference is that all the men are still looking for work, while 55,000 (15%) women have simply left the labour force and 124,000 (24%) who were previously looking for work, are no longer looking, taking themselves right out of the workforce. These numbers are alarming. The driving factors are:

  • Female dominated industries pulling back (as noted above)
  • Women are taking greater responsibility in child and eldercare. Moreover, employment among women with toddlers/school-aged children fell 7% compared to a decline of 4% among fathers (with children of the same age).
    • We’ve seen a 70 percent increase compared to a year ago in the number of working moms who are working at less than half, compared to 24 percent for men.

Shifting the conversation from where we are now, to where the opportunities lie, DePaoli fields many questions for Desjardins from the WISE community on how we can better support and engage women in the labour force:

Q: What are the skill sets we possess in the live industry that could be transferable to other industries that will be needed in the future?

A: Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, intense analytical skills, problem-solving, technical skills, client management, social perceptiveness. DePaoli adds that the idea of “re-skilling” is increasingly important. This means taking stock of what your skills are, what you have learned, and figuring out how these skills are portable for new opportunities.

Q: What are the things we need to think about to accelerate recovery for women?
Flexibility for women and women with partners. It’s about an equal share of doing at-home jobs and work jobs. It’s also important to ensure women are getting management experience. Men at earlier ages have these management opportunities, at almost every age cohort, and it’s about exposing women to these management experiences, bringing them along, and getting them involved at the management level. DePaoli adds men can support women by job shadowing, mentorship, sponsoring women, and helping to expand networks.

Q: How do you manage stress and burnout?

A: Empathy. We all know we are feeling the same way and the same pressures. It’s ensuring people know there is a boundary. One of the things stressing people out is that they feel they have no safe space. Don’t answer emails all the time. People appreciate you need to take time to go for a long walk, even if it’s during the day.

Q: How do you create rituals during the day where you allow ourselves to positively impact our well-being?

A: It’s all about pace, place, and space. Defining boundaries for yourself will help everyone become more disciplined. It’s about making sure everybody knows when to take time for themselves and to take a moment to get your energy back.  Taking time to reflect on your mental health is absolutely necessary. It’s important to take a step back and carve out time to protect yourself while experiencing the unprecedented shift in the job industry. The more time you take for yourself, the more productive you will be and will deliver higher-quality work.

Kim Carter, Head of Human Resources, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment and WISE member also shares her perspective on a question about women downshifting: 

Q: What should I do if I am considering downshifting my career?

A: Employees shouldn’t make a decision until having an honest discussion with their management team about challenges faced in the workplace and women should think about what changes can be brought to the table and propose them to the senior management. Carter goes on to suggest, employers should develop initiatives focused on accelerating women’s reskilling and training in new areas while applying a gender, diverse lens to strategies, policies and program creation to help drive economic recovery.

Our mandate at WISE Toronto is simple – keep women in the game, at the table in sports, entertainment, in the workforce more broadly.   Never has our industry’s eco-system encountered such uncertainty, and never have the talented women within it been more tested.   With over 250 professionals – both men and women - participating in our discussion regarding SHE-Cession to SHE-Covery, awareness, and support of the issue is clear.  The challenges created by COVID-19 will persist once there is a vaccine and beyond. It’s our industry’s resiliency and creativity that has demonstrated an inspiring ability to persevere and adapt through these unprecedented times. When the time is right and it is safe to do so, it is these traits that will help ensure we’re poised to super-serve Canadians hungry to return to live events and entertainment gatherings.

To take in the full hour-long conversation, continue watching below. Please also feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit from the expertise, insight, and guidance within.



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