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Two Northerners to help come up with solutions on returning more women to the workforce

Cheryl Fort, Melanie Debassige tapped to join provincial task force on barriers for women rejoining the post-pandemic economy
Cambrian College woman warehouse

Two prominent Northern Ontario leaders are joining a new provincial task force that will address the challenges of women re-entering the post-pandemic work force.

Selected to join Ontario's Task Force on Women and the Economy are Hornepayne Mayor Cheryl Fort and Melanie Debassige, executive director of the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation, were selected to come up with solutions on why women are facing disproportionately tougher barriers and what measures are required to support their return to work.

Fort is also a CN locomotive engineer. Debassige is a member of M'Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

A provincial government news release said employment among women dropped by five per cent for women during the pandemic compared to 3.1 with men. Benchmarked against their male counterparts, young women have been particularly affected than young men by pandemic-related changes in the labour market. Between February 2020 and May 2021, employment for youth aged 15 to 24 declined by 22.1 per cent for women and 13.7 per cent for men.

Chairing the task force is Karin Schnarr, associate professor of policy and law at Wilfrid Laurier's School of Business and Economics.

The task force will meet throughout the summer of 2021 and consider three areas of focus relating to women’s participation in economic growth:

  • supporting women as they enter and re-enter the workforce
  • supporting women’s entrepreneurship
  • removing barriers for women to enter fields in which they are underrepresented, including the skilled trades and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In the coming weeks, the group will be doing consultation with, what's being described as, "diverse stakeholder groups whose work touches on women’s participation in the economy and Ontario’s workforce."

Also involved in the group are:

Bernadette Sarazin, data strategy advisor with Fasken

Chen Xia, CEO and co-founder with Gotcare

Diane Scott, co-founder and partner with SX2 Ventures and Chair-CEO of JMCC Canada Corp

Kimberley Mason, senior vice president and head of Private Banking Canada with Royal Bank Canada

Nadine Spencer, CEO-president, BrandEQ Agency and president of the Black Business and Professional Association

Victoria Mancinelli, director of public relations, communications and marketing with the Labourer's International Union of North America

“While the pandemic has challenged us all, women have been disproportionately impacted, facing higher job losses and carrying a greater burden of family care," said Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, who made the announcement in a June 25 news release with Jane McKenna, associate minister of children and women's issues.

“The creation of this task force demonstrates our determination to ensure that women have the opportunity to be strong contributors and leaders as Ontario reopens," added McKenna. "The representation on the task force speaks to the range of experiences women have across the province in various regions and various sectors.”