A new Canadian survey reveals how the psychological scars of COVID-19’s second wave are gripping an already strained, stretched demographic: working mothers.
“The impact has been rolling back the clock by 30 years,” says Pamela Jeffery, mother of two and founder of The Prosperity Project which, in collaboration with Pollara Strategic Insights and CIBC, conducted the survey.
“Thirty years of gains that women have made with respect to getting out the door in the morning and going to a job that they’ve enjoyed. Those times are gone right now. Unfortunately, women have voluntarily left the workforce, and in many cases not voluntarily left the workforce,” she says.
The survey polled more than 1,000 people between January 26 and February 1, 2021. Among the respondents, mothers and fathers with children under 18 years of age. It is the second such poll led by The Prosperity Project. The first was conducted in August 2020.
Among the survey’s key findings:
- Working mothers reported experiencing higher levels of stress (52%), anxiety (47%) and depression (43%), compared to working women without children (36%; 38%; 29%)
- Working fathers reported stress (37%), anxiety (40%) and depression (27%)
- 44% of women feel they will face an economic recession and lack of job prospects once the pandemic is over
- More visible minority women (41%) believe that women are less likely to be considered for jobs after the pandemic, than white women (29%)
The survey data carries a margin of error of +- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The findings come as many countries enter the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, now in its 13th month.
“The job loss data shows women have borne the brunt of job losses,” Jeffery told Lianne Castelino during an interview for Where Parents Talk. “That’s something we’re really worried about — the prosperity project for women and their families.”
She will never know its precise origin or name. It arrived in early March 2020, shortly after Jeffery and her husband returned home from a trip abroad. “I got really sick. And I was in bed for about nine days,” she recalls. Jeffery says her attempts to get tested for COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic fell flat.
“I had all but two of the symptoms. And I I tried to get tested but was turned down.”
As she convalesced, her mind churned.
“I thought this is going to have a horrible impact on women,” Jeffery recounts. “What I’m feeling is that women are going to bear the brunt of the impact of COVID. It’s going to have a disproportionate impact on women, especially working moms. And so I reached out to women I knew in leadership roles. And I set up a series of Zoom calls. I asked them, are you feeling the same worries that I am? I am really concerned this is going to be really tough for for working moms. And they said yes, we completely agree with you.”
Buoyed by the support, Jeffery penned a five-point plan. Two month later, in May 2020, The Prosperity Project took flight. The initiative is backed by more than 60 female leaders in various industries from across the country.
“We can’t have an economic recovery without women playing a really important role,” says Jeffery, who has previously founded the Women’s Executive Network and the Canadian Board Diversity Council. “Women can only play that important role, not only as moms but as workers — working moms and working dads.”
According to a report released by Statistics Canada in 2015 entitled, “The Economic Well-being of Women in Canada,” the gap in income between men and women narrowed markedly between 1976 and 2015 — “from $32,300 ($16,100 versus $48,400) to $16,100 ($35,300 versus $51,400)” — as women entered the workforce.
Through her efforts and those of The Prosperity Project, Jeffery is driven to ensure the gains made by working women and working mothers are not reversed.
“I know that we’re going to get through this, ” she says. “I remember those times when my kids were young, and how hard it was. And so my advice was always to myself and to my friends — together, we’re stronger.”
During her interview with WhereParentsTalk.com, Pamela Jeffery also discusses:
- The goals and early successes of The Prosperity Project
- The potential impact of the pandemic’s third wave on working parents
- The potential future face of childcare
- Stay-at-home parenting
- Reasons for optimism
Watch the full interview with Pamela Jeffery:
Click for video transcription
Welcome to Where Parents Talk TV. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a mom of two, founder of the Women’s Executive Network and the Canadian Board Diversity Council. And as of May 2020, founder of The Prosperity Project, a national nonprofit organization in Canada, the prosperity project was launched two months after the onset of the covid 19 pandemic. Its goal is to support sustain and strengthen the advances made by women in the workforce. Pamela Jeffrey leads the prosperity project and she joins us today from her home in Stratford, Ontario. Pamela, thanks so much for making the time today.
Thanks so much, Lianne. I’m really looking forward to having a good discussion.
Well, and there is so much to talk about.
I wanted to start by having you, you know, look into sort of your experience and your network and ask you the question, how would you go about encapsulating what working mothers currently are facing in this pandemic.
Working mothers are at the heart of the pandemic, we all are because we as working mothers, are doing everything we can to keep it together. We’re doing everything we can to make sure our parents are being looked after and getting vaccinated. We’re doing everything we can to make sure our kids are safe, make sure their schooling continues, whether that’s at home or in the classroom, worried about what it might mean to the progress of our children’s education. We’re doing the grocery shopping, we are looking after cleaning of our homes, we are trying to maintain as normal a semblance of life as we can. And it’s really, really hard. And my heart goes out to all the moms with young kids, because I’ve been there, but nothing like what women working moms have today are grappling with in 2021. unprecedented.
So when we compare that to the situation prior to the pandemic, and sort of the advances of women, the gains of women in the workforce, how would you go about summarizing the impact of this pandemic on those gains that have been made.
The impact has been rolling back the clock by 30 years, 30 years of gains that women have made with respect to getting out the door in the morning and going to a job that they’ve enjoyed. Those times are gone right now, unfortunately, women have voluntarily left the workforce, and in many cases not voluntarily left the workforce. The job loss data shows that women have borne the brunt of job losses. And so that’s something that we’re really worried about The Prosperity Project for women and their families.
So your organization recently conducted a national survey. And those results were revealed recently. First of all, before we get into the results, why what was the goal of this survey?
The goal of the survey was to understand the lived experience of working mums to really delve into what it What’s it like every day. How are you feeling are and also to talk about what impact they think COVID is having on their families. And we can take that research that we’re doing, it’s not the first time we’ve done it, and we are sharing it with governments and with employers in order to help working mums and working dads, let’s not forget working dads to get back to a new normal, that’s a better normal.
What if anything surprised you in those survey results.
I wasn’t surprised to see that the levels of anxiety and depression are rising. Those feelings are even higher among working mums who are recording higher levels of stress during the you know during the time we were out in the field, which was in February than they were feeling closer to the first week of the pandemic. But what I found disappointing was that we’re not seeing working dads picking up more of the household responsibilities, disappointed to see working dads think they are. And when working moms are asked if working dads are the working mums say not so much. And that’s an important conversation, I think that we need to have is around who does what at home. And I’m hoping that this might be a silver lining in the pandemic is silver lining, meaning that perhaps this gives us the opportunity to have that conversation. So I think it’s long overdue.
Let’s go back a little bit. And I’m wondering about what was the impetus for The Prosperity Project what led to this coming to fruition in the first place.
It started in March of 2020, when my husband and I were coming back from a holiday and at the airport coming home, standing around a very crowded room where the luggage carousel was. Four days later, after we got home from an international trip, I got really sick. And I was in bed for about nine days, and just really out of the park myself down the hall away from our bedroom just in case. And after nine days, tried to get tested, but I had all but two of the symptoms. And I I tried to get tested but was turned down. And when I was in bed, and I joke with my friends, I must have been, I must have been hallucinating. But guess what I got out of bed. And I thought this is going to have a horrible impact on women. What I’m feeling is that women are going to bear the brunt of the impact of COVID. It’s going to have a disproportionate impact on women, especially working mums. And so I reached out to women I knew and leadership roles. And I set up a series of zoom calls. And I asked them, are you feeling the same worries that I am, I am really concerned that this is going to be really tough for for working moms. And they said yes, we completely agree with you, Pam. And I laid out a five-point plan, Lianne, and it was the five point action plan. So that a group of women, we rolled up our sleeves, we raised money, we contributed our own money, and the prosperity project was born. And so we are really working hard to do research like this, to inform governments and to inform employers to create more flexible workplaces for working moms and dads. And we also are taking action to encourage women to pivot if they’ve lost their jobs, or they voluntarily stayed home. They sacrificed their careers for their kids right now. We’re encouraging working moms to look at doing something new with their careers. So we’ve got lots on the go at the prosperity project, and we hope we hope we’re making a difference.
You know, it’s it’s so interesting to hear your describe the genesis of it all. And here we are now in the third wave of this pandemic. And I wonder as you sit there and try to take, you know, tangible steps and work the action plan as you are, what hope can you provide to women in particular, working mothers, who find themselves in this very isolated, confining situation? In this third wave and the harsh reality that you previously described, that many of them are facing? What would you say to them, to give them hope?
Oh, I am an optimist. And I know that we’re going to get through this. And I, I remember those times when my kids were young, and how hard it was. And so my advice was always to myself and to my friends. Together, we’re stronger. So reach out to your family and your friends and talk. It’s just, you know, we are so blessed as as women, to have good friendships, to have families that are really supportive. So reach out and know that this is going to come to an end the pandemic. My mother always used to say this too shall pass. This too shall pass. And while we’re in it, it’s really terrible. It’s really challenging. But hope resides in the fact that during this time, we can actually try something different. We can set in some of some cases working moms are working from home and discovering that they don’t have to do the commute. And that’s giving them more time back in their days to spend at home with their families. I think another discovery and a reason for hope is because of the vaccines and the rollout, that we are going to be coming back to workplaces, where employers are going to offer more flexibility. And the research shows that employers essentially have no choice but to do that, because both working moms and working dads expected. Our society wants to see more flexibility. We we’ve seen what it means to be at home with our families. And as tough as it is, when you’ve got young kids, it also means you’re having some family moments you wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I’m hearing from lots of folks that it’s brought, it’s brought people closer together. And it’s brought, you know, moms and dads time with their kids that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. So lots of reason for hope.
Let me ask you as we try to get through this third wave, and as you look at the results of the survey that we talked about earlier, do you feel that the situation for working families, working parents is going to be exacerbated? Or are we in a better position now than we were with the second wave? And certainly when this first hit?
You know, Lianne, that’s a great question. I think working parents are naturally resilient. Because we have the kids, we are doing everything we can to, to make a great life for our kids. And it’s all about resilience. And I think things we’ve learned during the first and the second waves, that we can do this, we can we can look after our kids, we can keep them safe, we can look after our parents. And at the same time, we can look forward to a new normal, which is going to I think be one that’s better, better, because we’re going to have employers with better workplace practices, we’re going to have governments we’ve already seen government stepped up with, with, with financial support for families. And I think, too, for working moms and dads that are thinking about new careers, we have huge opportunities. When you look at the economic forecasts for the United States and Canada, for example, you see that economists are forecasting great growth in our countries. And with that comes great opportunities to pivot into new roles. And part of the prosperity project is a focus on encouraging women to look at stem to look at science, technology, engineering and math roles to go back to school, if you can, and rescale skilled trades where four and a half percent of those jobs are held by women great paying jobs, over 300 types of skilled trades, very few women in them. And we’re encouraging women to look at those as well. And we’ve got a great portal we’ve established on our website. And at that portal, you can find all of these resources. It’s a one stop shop for for women. And by the way, the guys look at it too. But it’s just fantastic. It’s a silver lining,
So integral to this conversation that we’re having is the whole issue of childcare. And you know, you’ve alluded to it throughout this interview so far. What kind of strides need to be made with respect to childcare, daycare across this country in order to enable so much of what the prosperity project hopes to achieve?
We can’t have an economic recovery without women playing a really important role. Yeah. And women can only play that important role, not only as moms but as, as workers were working mums and working dads. And so childcare is an essential component of prosperity project we are advocating vigorously at the federal level, and provincially. We’re calling on the federal government to put in place and childcare and early childhood education program. It’s one where as you know, the federal government can fund it, and it’s up to the individual provinces and territories to put it in place. And so we are really wanting to see federal government move forward with childcare that is a affordable to many families are finding it almost impossible to pay high daycare fees, especially in our biggest cities. You It’s a second mortgage. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we have governments invest the federal government invest in child care and early child hood education with trained professionals, that will be an important opportunity for women since most of those who are professionals in childcare and early child with education are already women, women are naturally attracted to the sector. So if government is serious about this, they can ensure that there’s ample funding to deliver training, and a great workplace and culture for these professionals to deliver the kind of high quality childcare, that means that mums can go to work and know that their children and dads can go to work and know that their children are being cared for in a safe and loving environment by professionals. So affordability first, second is accessibility. So we need more, we need way more childcare spots. And we need those spots to be close to our homes. And we need those spots to be available to us when we work. So Gone are the days when the drop off was at 830. And the pickup was at 430. Those days that are going with the kind of shifts that we are working in a 24 seven global environment. It’s time for us as working parents to have the choice of affordable childcare that is accessible when we need it. And that’s been our message to the federal government. And it continues to be our message as we lead up to budget day in Ottawa.
Has the pandemic, in your opinion, put a different kind of spotlight on this conversation that as you know, as you know, has been going on for a long time. What is different about it now has the pandemic again. But you know, put it in a context that now we cannot ignore it in your opinion.
Yes, in my opinion, we cannot ignore it. I was a youngster when the government of Canada announced that they would in fact move forward with child care. I was a youngster. Now my kids are growing, maybe when I’m a grandmother. And I think it’s it’s not a maybe I think it’s gonna happen now because the pandemic has showing how unequal it is right now. Meaning it is very difficult for women to be at work when they can’t get out the door, because they don’t have any childcare. And we can’t have a recovery without more women at work. And that’s the challenge. We’re starting now, having seen so many women leave the workforce, eight times the number of women in comparison to men have left the workforce. And that statistic is those women who not only have left the workforce, they’re not even looking for work. They’ve thrown in the towel right now. So for them to come back to work, they need childcare, and they’re coming back to work will help us make an economic recovery. And we sure need to get back on our feet. The economists are calling for growth. That’s great. But at the end of the day, it’s all about our families.
I’m curious along those lines. Do you believe that stay at home parenting should be recognized as a salaried occupation? Are we at that point, in your opinion?
I think we’re at a point where we as a society need to have a conversation around paid care, whether that’s Caring for Our Children, or caring for our elders. For too long. I think the care economy has been undervalued. And so I would welcome that conversation, Lianne.
What would you say that you’re most proud of, in the 11 months or so? Well, a year now, I guess that the prosperity project has existed.
I would say looking at what we’ve done to date, that I’m really proud that we were the first ones to publish research back in the summer around the lived experience of working mothers. When I was speaking with journalists back then they said in it seems like back then the months ago, and they said you’ve given us data. Thank you very, very much. I am really proud of the fact that we made sure that there was a conversation happening around what the impact was on working models.
I am really proud of that. And we’ve been heard because we know from the statement in the House of Commons a few months ago, we know that the federal government
And we know that there are discussions right now on childcare. And we know that the government recognizes that we can’t have a strong economic recovery without women. when women succeed, we all prosper.
That’s what, that’s what we say at the prosperity project. when women succeed, we all prosper and for us to have a prosperous future as a country. It takes women to
Pamela Jeffrey, founder of The Prosperity Project. Thank you so much for your time and perspective today.
Lianne, thank you.
Complete Survey results
Study: The Economic Well-being of Women in Canada, 2015 (Statistics Canada)