Ford government announces task force on women and the economy

By Richard Southern

The Ontario government says it’s creating a task force on women and the economy after evidence that women have been disproportionately affected in the workplace during the pandemic, with employment for women dropping more than five per cent, in comparison to 3.1 per cent for men.

The task force will be chaired by Dr. Karin Schnarr, Associate Professor of Policy & Law at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The task force will meet throughout the summer of 2021 and consider three areas of focus relating to women’s participation in economic growth:

  • supporting women as they enter and re-enter the workforce
  • supporting women’s entrepreneurship
  • removing barriers for women to enter fields in which they are underrepresented, including the skilled trades and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).


“Our government is committed to ensuring inclusive economic growth and creating opportunities for everyone to thrive,” said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy.

“While the pandemic has challenged us all, women have been disproportionately impacted, facing higher job losses and carrying a greater burden of family care. That is why we have appointed Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy to recommend how to address the unique and disparate economic barriers women face, particularly as we rebuild our economy post-COVID-19.”

680 NEWS asked Bethlenfalvy if his government would institute a higher minimum wage if the task force recommended it. Statistics show women work more minimum wage jobs than men.

“We will listen,” he said. “The whole idea (of the Task Force) was to move fast so it could help inform (me), and all ministers and the Premier in terms of things we should look at not only for women but for economic recovery.”

Just this week Japan recommended that businesses look at a four day work week in part to help keep women in the workforce. 680 NEWS asked the finance minister if that’s something to be looked at in Ontario.

“Companies right across Ontario are looking at their workforces, and the Ontario public service is doing the same and the broader public service combined, so we’ll be looking at that very closely … because the world has changed with COVID-19.”

NDP leader Andrew Horwath says she knows what she would do to help women in the workplace. “Investment in child care programs,” she said. “We lost a lot of childcare spaces during this COVID-19 pandemic and that needs to be acknowledged and that needs to be repaired.”

The Task Force includes:

  • Bernadette Sarazin, Data Strategy Advisor, Fasken
  • Chen Xia, CEO & Co-founder, Gotcare
  • Diane Scott, Co-founder & Partner, SX2 Ventures, and Chairman & CEO, JMCC Canada Corp
  • Kimberley Mason, Senior Vice President and Head, Private Banking Canada, Royal Bank Canada
  • Melanie Debassige, Executive Director, Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation
  • Nadine Spencer, CEO & President, BrandEQ Agency and President, Black Business and Professional Association
  • Victoria Mancinelli, Director of Public Relations, Communications, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, Labourers’ International Union of North America
  • Cheryl Fort, Mayor, Township of Hornepayne, and Locomotive Engineer for the Canadian National Railway

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