Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day – an annual occasion that marks the importance of women’s leadership, successes and the challenges that continue to exist to ensure complete gender equity.
As we approach the first anniversary of the pandemic, the theme for this year’s day is “Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. As we all know, women have been greatly affected by the pandemic, with the majority of frontline positions being occupied by women. These positions include those who work in health care, social services, retail, education and early childhood education.
The pandemic has also driven women out of the labour market as women shoulder the majority of childcare responsibilities in our society. A recent RBC economic report noted women’s participation in the workforce is now at 55 per cent, the lowest rate since the 1980s.
We must also remember that instances of domestic violence have risen during the pandemic, putting the health and safety of women at a higher risk. In short, the pandemic has disproportionately affected women across the globe in a multitude of ways.
In 2020, Regional Council passed a motion to call on senior levels of government to make more substantial investments in childcare. This motion was in part designed to increase equity in our society, and ensure more fairness in the market as women look to rejoin the labour market as the pandemic ends.
Council also recently created a Women’s Advisory Committee that advocates for gender-based issues, promotes leadership development that empowers women in Niagara and acts as a general resource for women’s issues in the Region. The four Regional Councillors and 11 citizen members who sit on this committee are working hard to ensure that women are more fairly represented in public office, on corporate boards and in leadership positions.
I am confident that this term of council will continue to look for ways to support full gender equality as we work through the balance of our mandate.
As we continue to move our way through this pandemic, I remain hopeful that we will take advantage of the opportunities it has provided to build a better community that is more equitable for all.