The Last Word: Women Lead With Their Hearts, Show Strength and Resilience Facing Adversity
Women across Ontario have shown strength and resilience in the face of unprecedented adversity.
Many incredible women have exhibited their strong leadership skills throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including Christine Elliott, the province’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Our doctors, nurses, researchers, and front-line workers have borne additional responsibilities to help fight the worst global pandemic in more than 100 years – with women comprising 81 per cent of the health care and social assistance workforce in Ontario. Traditionally the major care-keepers in the home, many women have also chosen to stay at home to help with their child’s education when schools have closed and online learning is the only option.
Women also continue to play a significant role as business leaders. Female entrepreneurs have found innovative solutions and proven adept at being able to successfully pivot, including taking their businesses online to continue operating virtually.
But women have also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, particularly in sectors of the economy where they are over-represented, such as hospitality, tourism, the beauty industry, and retail.
Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy recently noted in his fiscal 2021 budget speech that female employment has dropped by nearly five per cent, compared to only 3.3 per cent for men.
Moreover, women comprise only four and a half per cent of the skilled trade sectors in Ontario.
This provides a great opportunity to transition women into well-paying jobs.
Our provincial government has risen to that challenge. We have provided over $117 million to assist those who have been disadvantaged by the pandemic, including women, find jobs. Minister Bethlenfalvy and I are establishing a task force that will address the unique barriers that women face in the workforce. Our goal is to ensure that women are not only brought back, but also championed to succeed. The post-COVID economy will be one of growth, and one of the key elements in that growth will be women.
We are also investing record amounts in mental health to give all Ontarians a place to get the care they need. Women, children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable at this difficult time. We have seen an increase in domestic violence during the lockdown as some people have been inadvertently forced to spend more time at home with their abuser. So we have been running a campaign to let women know that shelters are still open, and have been throughout the pandemic.
The workers at those shelters have done incredible work to protect women and children who have been placed in difficult situations.
In my Ministry, we celebrate women every day. We know how phenomenal women are and the important role they play in each of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it clearer that Ontario would not operate without the extraordinary women who have stepped up to protect our province.
I thank them for all their hard work. They lead with their hearts and have truly shown the Ontario spirit day in and day out.
Jill Dunlop is Ontario’s Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues