SGEU marks International Women’s Day (IWD) by recognizing the contributions that women and gender-diverse people have made to the union, our communities, and our province. IWD is celebrated annually on March 8, as a day to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women, girls, and gender-diverse people. It is also a time to raise awareness about the work that remains to ensure gender equity and justice.

Many of the issues that disproportionately impact women are not new, but our experiences dealing with the COVID-19 virus have highlighted the need for change, particularly as we begin to move into the recovery phase of the pandemic.  

Research has shown that the pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities of a labour market that was already not a level playing field when it comes to gender. In the past year, we have witnessed a concerning decrease in women’s participation in the formal workforce, including a reduction in hours and layoffs because of a slowed economy, or the need to leave their jobs due to caregiving demands for children, parents and other family members.

Women comprise a large percentage of workers in areas especially hard-hit during the pandemic, including health care and long-term care; community services, especially community-based organizations and non-government organizations; education and child care; and the sales and service industries. Along with economic insecurity, individuals in these precarious and dangerous front-line jobs have faced a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they work with members of the public, children, and those who are ill. 

Tragically, gender-based violence has also increased during the pandemic, disproportionately impacting women who are racialized, living with disabilities, transgender, living in poverty, or homeless.

These are just some of the systemic inequalities that have been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s clear there are many gaps and inequities that need to be addressed, especially as decisions are made about the recovery phase of the pandemic.

SGEU is committed to continuing to provide support and assistance to our members as they face issues related to COVID-19 in the workplace. We also recommit to calling on all levels of government to ensure there are investments made in the care economy, services available to address gender-based violence, accommodations and supports for women with disabilities; and measures to address homelessness and income inequality.

We invite all SGEU members to join in recognizing the challenges, contributions and achievements of women and gender-diverse people, not only on International Women’s Day but also throughout the year.

Everyone is looking forward to a return to normal, but as we rebuild from the pandemic, let’s not accept a return to a time where some people are worse off than before. Instead, let’s work toward a “new normal” that includes justice and equality for all.

Join us in celebrating #IWD2021 by sharing what you #ChooseToChallenge on Facebook.