The unrivalled impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across Canada and beyond. The outbreak has spread worldwide and it’s clear there is not one group of people who haven’t been impacted by the spread of the virus in one way or another, and it’s even more apparent that women have been affected more than most. Women in business have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, due in part to their extensive caring responsibilities in their personal lives, and the impact of the virus on sectors of the economy that are generally led by women. However, it’s also important to note that some women are emerging as leaders throughout this pandemic and ensuring the gender gap doesn’t continue to widen.
Female entrepreneurs have been more negatively affected by the pandemic than their male counterparts due to the fact that they have had to leave their careers (or put them on hold) to manage childcare amid daycare and school closures. Accessibility to affordable childcare and more flexible work arrangements allowing women to work from home is needed to allow female businesswomen to continue working while managing the myriad of responsibilities of home life. Between homeschooling kids and caring for sick and elderly relatives, women with full-time jobs and families are often providing an average of 20 hours more each week of caregiving and housework than their partners.
The virus has negatively impacted certain sectors of the economy more than others, particularly those that are led by businesswomen. Sectors such as retail, food, accommodations, social services and recreation were more likely to temporarily close due to the pandemic – leaving women unemployed or facing business closure. A higher proportion of women lost their jobs in the early stages of the pandemic than men, and single mothers were also more likely than mothers in two parent families to have experienced job loss or reduced hours. With the shutdown of most travel across the globe, women working as flight attendants, cooks, servers, and cleaners in travel and hospitality industries were hit with layoff notices. The pandemic has intensified the economic barriers that women already face throughout Canada, and it has become apparent that this pandemic is taking a higher toll on women’s incomes than men. For many women since the pandemic hit, keeping their businesses running and employees working has been increasingly difficult, especially with increased domestic and caretaking responsibilities at home falling squarely on their shoulders.
Job loss and business closure aren’t the only effect the pandemic has unfairly had on women. With many businesses adapting to the changing economic climate by shifting from brick-and-mortar storefronts to working from home and moving online, the “digital divide” has disproportionately affected women-owned businesses in low income or rural locations, due to less reliable internet and cellular service, which poses additional challenges to keep their businesses up-to-date and responsive. Women living on a low income may also not have access to computers or mobile devices, making it difficult for them to access resources and work from home or online.
While the disparity between men and women during the pandemic is clear, it’s important to remember that there are many women emerging as leaders during this unprecedented time. Women are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, making difficult decisions and taking action, including nurses, community-service providers, elder care workers, businesswomen and store clerks, not to mention the many women stepping up to lead the pandemic response in responsible positions of government and public health, like Dr. Bonnie Henry in British Columbia and Dr. Deana Hinshaw in Alberta. Female entrepreneurs are emerging as front runners in the business world, taking the opportunity for change with both grace and success. The resilience of female entrepreneurs is apparent as we see more start-ups with altered products to match the changing societal landscape, and implementing new client connection strategies while continuing to go above and beyond to develop innovative solutions to help their communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented impact in Canada and around the world, and its effects have certainly been felt by women locally in the Shuswap and across the country. The lines have become blurred between home life and work life, making it difficult for women to maintain a healthy work life balance. Many have changed their career path to accommodate this new reality, which may provide new opportunities for future business opportunities and growth. While COVID-19’s impact has reached every corner of the globe, it is inspiring to see that for some women, their strong leadership and entrepreneurial skills have flourished during this time of change, and as a result they have truly become trailblazers in their field. For inspiring stories of successful businesswomen in the Shuswap, check out our Women to Watch features at www.tsutsweye.ca.