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Understanding Women's Work and Wellbeing during COVID-19 - Event in Review

Event: Women’s Work and Wellbeing: Experiences from COVID-19 Frontline Response

Host: The Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity (CGSHE)


1. Dr. Julia Smith (CGSHE Faculty Member and Research Associate in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University).

2. Alice Murage - (CGSHE affiliate research fellow in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University).

Platform: Zoom

Date: December 9th, 2021

Event in Review

Key facts:

  • Globally women have been working on the frontlines during the pandemic as healthcare workers, paid and unpaid care workers, educators, and workers in the food services industry.

  • These jobs are considered “women’s work”; poorly recognized and undervalued.

  • The pandemic has put a spotlight on the precarity and inequitable status of this so-called “women’s work”.

In the second monthly event for the CGSHE speaker series, the focus was on exploring the concept of “women’s work” and how this has been exasperated by the pandemic. The speakers Dr. Smith and Alice Murage presented the experiences of female healthcare workers and immigrant women in the care and food services industry, particularly in British Columbia.

Dr. Smith began the talk with the research question, how is ‘women’s work’ and therefore women’s wellbeing, affected by the response to COVID-19? She highlighted that women’s work is often racialized. Many of the sectors in the pandemic response are largely dominated by women, particularly racialized women.

Dr. Smith went on to explain the focus areas of the study, which was on female healthcare workers, in particular midwives, long term caregivers, nurses, community health and care workers, and physicians. Interestingly, the study discovered four key themes after interviewing these participants, these include:

  • The feeling of being essential

  • Experiencing moral distress

  • The triple burden of work

  • Being seen and having a voice

The discussion then shifted over to discussing the impact COVID-19 had on immigrant women workers in the food services industry. Alice Murage began by highlighting that many of the workers within this industry are women, especially racialized and immigrant women (the majority are part-time and non-unionized workers). When conducting interviews with workers in the industry, Murage focused on five key themes, these include:

  • Financial struggles

  • Childcare struggles

  • Exacerbated precarity

  • Mental health struggles

  • Coping strategies

One of the interesting points Murage highlighted was the lack of accessible government COVID-19 benefits for these workers. Although there were government benefits in place, many people fell through the cracks during the pandemic and could not utilize them. Knowledge, eligibility and language barriers were a few of the things experienced by these workers when trying to access government benefits such as CERB or CRB.

The pandemic has shown us that women in these areas of work are very important and need more support to overcome the barriers they may face. View the recording of the event below to learn more about this crucial topic!

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