Colonial legacy and anti-Indigenous racism
Due to colonization, residential schools, and marginalizing policies, women in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities face lower employment rates and earnings on average than non-Indigenous women, as well as complex socio-economic barriers to pursuing higher education (Arriagada, Statistics Canada, 2016).
Overall, “this persistence of longstanding social and economic marginalization has given rise to large numbers of Indigenous women living in vulnerable situations, including homelessness, and abusive relationships ” (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2014).
Anti-Black racism and discrimination
Histories of enslavement and ongoing gender and race-based discrimination and misogynoir impact Black women in many ways. The unemployment rate for Black women is roughly twice that of non-racialized women. Black women generally face “greater barriers to getting well-paid jobs in particular”, compared to other racialized women and white women. Black women are overrepresented in precarious and part-time employment and are “disproportionately entrenched in a cycle of poverty and marginalization.” Many of these issues are rooted in barriers Black women experience from a young age, including discrimination in the education system, job market, and housing (Katshunga et al.).
“Black women are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher when compared to other women in Canada. Working-age Black women are also less likely to be employed compared to other women, Black men, and other men in Canada. When comparing median annual income across major cities in Canada … Black women have lower median annual income when compared to other women, Black men, and other men in Canada” (Black Business and Professional Association, 2021).
Newcomer and immigrant women
When it comes to finding work, newcomer and immigrant women face barriers including language and limited social networks to support their search.
Employers often don’t recognize educational and professional qualifications from outside Canada, meaning that newcomer women cannot always access higher paying jobs and may have to take jobs for which they’re overqualified. “In 2011, 48.6% of working immigrant women with a bachelor’s level education or higher were employed in positions that do not typically require a degree. In contrast, this was the case for 32.8% of Canadian-born women” (Hudon, Statistics Canada, 2015).
The temporary foreign worker program can leave many women who come to Canada to work in service, retail, and caregiving sectors vulnerable to workplace discrimination, unsafety, and abuse. People who come to Canada through these programs have lesser protections than workers with full status (White et al., 2016). In general, where their immigration status is precarious, newcomer women cannot easily seek out better working conditions like higher pay, stable schedules, and benefits (Dobrowolsky et al.).
Racism and income inequality
Rising income inequality continues to be a concern in Canada. It means that the gap between the highest and lowest income earners is widening.
In 2016, the top one per cent of Canada’s population owned a quarter of the country’s wealth — an amount greater than the total wealth held by the bottom 70% of the population or more than 24.5 million people (Lambert and McInturff, 2016). In Canada, the data on income inequality point to a pattern of racialized economic inequality, and “racialized women face greater barriers to work, and well-paid work, than racialized men, non-racialized women and non-racialized men”. In 2016, the racialized population had an unemployment rate of 9.2% compared to the non-racialized rate of 7.3%, and racialized women had the highest unemployment rate at 9.6% (Block et al., 2019).
Ableism and barriers to access
“In Canada, poverty and disability are largely synonymous: poverty can lead to disability and disability can lead to poverty … Compared to men with disabilities, women with disabilities face additional economic disadvantage. Historically, women with disabilities have experienced lower rates of participation in the labor force, less access to income support programs and higher rates of poverty” (Council of Canadians with Disabilities). 1 in 5 people in Canada aged 25 to 64 have at least one disability, and women are more likely to have a disability than men (Wall, Statistics Canada, 2017).
“Women with disabilities face obstacles and prejudices in various aspects of daily life such as education, employment and housing. Discrimination experienced by women with disabilities is complex since it is the result of the intersection of multiple oppressions related to disability, gender, sexual orientation, level of urbanization, ethnicity and culture, age, economic circumstances and employment status” (Disabled Women’s Network of Canada, 2014).
Homophobia and transphobia
An overview of available research and literature notes that “manifestations of poverty appeared to be gendered in that they appeared to disproportionately affect women, along with trans and gender diverse populations.” Inequities leading to higher poverty for 2SLGBTQI+ populations occur at “several intersections across the life course” and are impacted by a “race and newcomer status, and Indigeneity” (Kia et al., 2021).
2SLGBTQ+ community members face high levels of discrimination, harassment, and hostility when it comes to hiring processes and workplace policy and practices. This limits their ability to progress economically (Catalyst, 2021).
Senior women and age discrimination
“Poverty rates among the elderly tend to be highest among women, particularly widows over the age of 75. This is largely due to pension allowances that have traditionally been linked to employment history” (Conference Board of Canada).
Women’s lifetime earning potential is more likely than men’s to be limited by interruptions for unpaid child or elder-care. Their ability to earn and save for retirement is also influenced by the gender pay gap. Women who have sacrificed professional and financial opportunities for family care may become particularly vulnerable to poverty if they become divorced or widowed later in life.
Senior women may also face gendered ageism, a term that covers the intersectionality of age and gender bias. It can impact every career stage, starting from hiring (Catalyst, 2019). It extends to treatment and opportunities at work and adds to women’s difficulties in entering or re-entering the workforce (Beaton, 2018).