As employers across Canada continue to experience challenges in finding and retaining workers, this is a crucial moment to boldly adopt person-centered solutions for women to thrive in the labour market.
As a leader in employment support, training and reskilling programming for women, YWCA Canada has a unique vantage point into how workplaces can adapt to attract and retain women employees. For over 150 years, we’ve been at the forefront of a movement: to fight gender-based violence, build affordable housing and advocate for workplace equity.
YWCA Canada has identified tangible ways employers can build work environments that address the unique barriers women face in employment, through its national research project: Born to Be Bold: Measuring success for women’s access to the labour market, funded by the Government of Canada. The practices described below provide a pathway for employers to create more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive.
Adopt long-term flexible working arrangements
While the COVID-19 pandemic drove the wide adoption of remote work in many workplaces, as we emerge from this crisis, incorporating flexible work is an important step employers can take towards creating a more equitable labour market. In the Born to be Bold findings, flexible working arrangements was a top recommendation from research participants. 63.1 percent of survey respondents selected “work hours flexibility” as a component of their ideal job. Flexibility in working conditions was also mentioned in 52 percent of focus groups and interviews.
As one focus group participant stated, “Life doesn’t fit into a nine-to-five box.” Flexibility in work hours and location will enable women to access the labour market while balancing other responsibilities such as unpaid care and domestic work caring for elderly family members, and to tend to increased domestic responsibilities during conventional work hours.
It is important to be intentional about how flexible work practices are created and maintained in your organization’s larger culture. When not thought through, flexible work can frustrate efforts for wider workplace equity and inclusivity. Take a look at YWCA Canada’s Move Forward Employer Resources for help in crafting your flexible work culture.
Acknowledge the Value of Lived Experience & International Credentials
Expertise is not purely measured by education or professional experiences, as often required for employment opportunities. Accepting or acknowledging lived experience in work recruitment was a need identified by many of the participants YWCA Canada spoke with, particularly amongst mothers, young women, and newcomer women. As one participant expressed that for newcomers, it’s as though they are “expected to start at the bottom and be satisfied with any work opportunity” despite any other experiences.
Recognizing and evaluating lived experience and/or expertise and experience outside of Canada in recruitment and job advertising can increase various women’s access to roles and employment they have traditionally been kept out of.
In addition, supporting newcomer women in accessing accreditation, equivalencies, and presenting non-Canadian work experiences in job applications are actions that can support women with different experiences.
In recruitment and hiring processes, assess whether listed qualifications are truly necessary for the job or can be captured by other experiences. Creating safe environments where individual contexts can be discussed without fear of losing or not obtaining employment through clear policies and accountability was a common response in asking participants’ needs from an employer.
Take Action on Workplace Violence
All employees should have the ability to work in safe and affirming environments. Yet, women, especially Black, Indigenous and racialized women, 2SLGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities continue to report experiencing violence at work. These experiences of violence lead to turnover, reduced productivity and lack of advancement. To take action, employers can make a commitment to organizational wide learning and clear and responsive processes and policies to meaningfully address violence and protect workers. Wondering where to start? Take a look at YWCA Canada’s resources for employers, Catalyst’s extensive work in this area and Right to Be (formerly Hollaback)’s training and resources.
Paid training and learning opportunities
To address skills gaps and prepare for the future of work and labour market growth, employers should offer paid training, placement, and learning opportunities for their team members. As many participants expressed the need for more training opportunities, they relayed sentiments that if such opportunities were made available through their employers, they would not have to choose between education and training versus survival. Not having to balance financial concerns and burdens while attaining skills will allow more focused and productive employees, ultimately benefiting their employers. An important way to make continuous learning accessible and attainable for both employers and employees is embracing micro-credentialling in skill-development.
For more information about YWCA Canada’s work on building inclusive workplaces, visit www.ywcacanada.ca/moveforward