The Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Until All of Us Have Made It
report highlights how gender-based inequalities play out for diverse segments of the population. The report is based on an opinion survey the Foundation commissioned in early 2020. It demonstrates how women’s experiences and outcomes in employment, education, health differ vary widely when related to factors like race, citizenship status, and ability.
The sections below provide more background on some of the intersecting barriers faced by women and gender-diverse people.
Colonial legacy and anti-Indigenous racism
Due to the legacy of 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.
“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,” says a report by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which examined factors contributing to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Anti-Black racism and discrimination
The legacy of slavery and ongoing gender and race-based discrimination impact Black women in many ways. The unemployment rate for Black women is roughly twice that of non-racialized women, says the Black Women in Canada report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 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.
Newcomer and immigrant women
When it comes to finding work, newcomer and immigrant women may 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.”
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.
In general, where their immigration status is precarious, newcomer women cannot easily seek out better working conditions like higher pay, stable schedules, and benefits.
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 per cent of the population (more than 24.5 million people).
In Canada, the data on income inequality “point to an unequivocal pattern of racialized economic inequality” says Canada’s Colour Coded Income Inequality report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Ableism and barriers to access
Women living with disabilities encounter many barriers to both education and employment. They are underrepresented in Canada’s work force, have lesser access to adequate employment, and are more at risk of living in poverty.
Barriers include ableism,
which leads to structural obstacles (such as lack of assistive technology, or wheelchair-accessible office space) that limit access to the workforce. Employers may lack knowledge about disability issues, including the duty to accommodate, and how to accommodate.
Homophobia and transphobia
Though there remains a lack of data specific to poverty among those who identify as women in 2SLGBTQ+ communities, there is a high level of poverty and marginalization related to homophobia and transphobia. For example, “one in four queer or trans youth in BC are forced out of their homes because of family conflict. Within this group, people of colour or Indigenous people fare worse,” says the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. “Among homeless youth in BC, 1 in 3 females and 1 in 10 males self-identify as queer, trans or questioning.” s
2SLGBTQ+ community members may also experience discrimination and/or harassment when it comes to hiring processes and workplace culture. This limits people’s ability to progress economically.
The Canadian Coalition Against LGBTQ Poverty is working to address gaps in knowledge about poverty in this community, and has submitted recommendations on how Canada’s poverty strategy can address the issue.
Senior women and age discrimination
Many factors contribute to high poverty rates among senior and elderly women. 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 be prevented from working due to age-related health conditions or disabilities. They may also face ageism in the job market, particularly when it comes to perceptions of digital competency.