The Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at Ivey Business School, part of the University of Western Ontario, held an online session as part of its “Sip & Speak Webinar Series”, entitled How the pandemic threatens decade of women’s labour force gains. The presenters, Dawn Desjardins, Vice President, Deputy Economist for RBC and Carrie Freestone, RBC Economist, (“the Researchers”) shared data from their July 2020 Report which summarized the impact of the pandemic on women.

Highlights from the data collected noted that of the 184,000 Canadians who had dropped out of the labour market, 93% were women. This resulted in a significant decrease in the participation rate of women in the workforce, the lowest in 30 years.

For leaders and business owners this Report is worth reviewing because while the data identifies the significant and adverse outcome of the pandemic on women, it also indicates that if the participation of women equalled men, this would boost the economic input per year to $100 billion.

In this edition of Thinking Strategically about your Human Resources, we focus on ten initiatives to attract and retain talent for your business through the creation of opportunities for women. The long-term benefits which can lead to the increased participation of women in the labour force and a positive effect on the economy. Before identifying the initiatives, it is worth noting that the Researchers acknowledged that there is a gap in the labour survey data studied as it relates to the variable of race. Nevertheless, the ten initiatives suggested below, are essential in promoting the attraction and retention of all women including those who identify as Black, Indigenous Person or Colour (BIPOC).

The initiatives listed below can be considered in conjunction with your organization’s post-pandemic recovery to plan and include the following actions:

  1. Participate in activities that increase your own knowledge and understanding of the importance of creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce.
  2. Speak and listen to women in your organization and industry and ask their opinion on the actions your business can take to make women feel more welcomed and seek their insights on behaviours that make it difficult for them to feel as they belong.
  3. Identify mentors in the organization who are willing to share their knowledge, teach their skills and support female employees.
  4. Set specific goals to increase the representation of women in all areas of your business.
  5. Create career paths to provide for junior women to gain experience, knowledge, and skills to be eligible for senior technical positions in the future.
  6. Partner with high schools, post-secondary institutions and associations to create a pipeline of talent through co-operative education experiences, apprenticeship programs.
  7. Invest in succession planning, networking, and stretch assignments which will allow for equal access to the key experiences that will prepare women for leadership positions.
  8. Develop flexible workplace policies and practices that consider the need to balance household management with work and caregiving responsibilities.
  9. Review your recruitment practices to identify biases that may exist and unintentionally exclude applications from a wide range of women and BIPOC individuals.
  10. Invest in a total benefits program which provides medical and dental coverage along with holistic health and mental well-being supports, and encourages the prevention of illness, income
    protection and financial stability.

The competition for talent now and in the future will be decided by the ability of an organization to provide its employees with an environment where they feel welcomed and can see themselves represented at all levels of the organization. In preparing for recovery, leaders are required to make decisions now, which will attract and retain a diverse and inclusive work force. Starting on this journey begins with creating opportunities for women who have been hardest hit by the pandemic and who have significant contributions to make if provided with opened doors.

We are here to help you with the steps on this journey. Stay well and stay safe.