The pandemic hit women workers hardest, according to the Royal Bank of Canada

The pandemic hit women workers hardest, according to the Royal Bank of Canada

The numbers are devastating: only 55 per cent of working age women (15 and over) had jobs during the height of the pandemic this spring, reversing decades of improvement in mere weeks, according to RBC. Though women accounted for 51 per cent of pandemic-related job losses in early spring, they’ve only accounted for 45 per cent of the job gains as things reopened in early summer. Women are more likely to work in industries hardest hit and slowest to recover: food service, accommodations and retail among them. They’re also much more likely to have been saddled with childcare as schools shut down.

This is particularly pronounced in Prince Edward Island. According to Statistics Canada, tourism in P.E.I. accounts for three per cent of the province’s GDP—the highest in the country—and 6.7 per cent of the island’s jobs. When the pandemic shut down travel, the industry was levelled. 

Many women work in tourism in P.E.I., and many of the PEI Business Women’s Association members are in the tourism industry, says Margaret Magner, PEIBWA’s executive director. With over 70 per cent of women business owners in P.E.I. being sole employees, and over 60 per cent of women business owners in Atlantic Canada operating solely to generate an income for themselves, according to a 2019 report from Nova Scotia’s Centre for Women in Business, women entrepreneurs have been particularly vulnerable, Magner says. 

“They make their money during the summer months, and that’s what’s going to carry them over to the next year,” she says. “There were a number of them seriously wondering if they were going to have to shut down their business.” The Atlantic Bubble helped and many bed and breakfasts are now full, but Magner expects the recovery for her members—just as for women in the rest of the country—could still be slow and difficult. 

Her advice to women business owners having a hard time? “I would suggest that they reach out, and that they don’t have to go through this alone,” she says. “Each province has their own Women’s Business Center. They have resources.”

Margaret Magner is executive director of the PEI Business Women’s Association

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