“I don’t know how I’m going to get back to the office”: COVID-19 forces women to rethink their careers


Before COVID-19, Rachel Dei-Amoah generally slept at 10 p.m. Now, she is often woken up after midnight, reading or shopping online.

Silent late hours are rare moments of peace for the mother of two as she tries to juggle child care and a demanding professional career during a pandemic.

“Now I have to become a parent while I am at work. I have to be a teacher during my work day. Now there is not much time left for mom. “

Dei-Amoah, 47, considers himself lucky. His full-time job as a manager of the retirement plans at TD Bank in Toronto continued without interruption, shifting entirely to homework.

But the demands of his time have increased exponentially. With the schools closed, she manages online learning for her children, ages 6 and 10, mediates sibling quarrels and serves the family three meals a day.

Her mental capacity is at its maximum, she says, “because it’s like, I have to think about all these things and always think about my job. “

Leo, six, completes a home school activity while his mother Moira, an employee of a regional council, works from home in the village of Marsden, near Huddersfield in northern England, on May 15. (Oli Scarff / AFP via Getty Images)

As the slow process of reopening non-essential businesses begins across Canada, Dei-Amoah is one of many professional women and entrepreneurs struggling with work-life balance.

She does not know what to do with her children this summer, as camps are no longer an option, and she is looking forward to going back to work because she is immunocompromised.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get back to the office. Even for the rest of the year. Like, I don’t know how it’s going to be possible. “

The “sale” of COVID-19

Women were the first victims of COVID-19 jobs in Canada, with female-dominated sectors such as child care, education, retail and restaurants being among the hardest hit.

Statistics Canada recently reported that 1.5 million women lost their jobs in March and April, down 17% from employment from February levels.

It is a crisis that some economists have called a “divestiture.” But, as the pandemic continues, women’s participation in the coronavirus economy could head into even more difficult times.

With children at home and families forced to do more domestic work, experts predict that an increasing number of working women may reduce working hours or withdraw from the workforce entirely.

“When we think of a homework environment, especially if the schools and daycares are closed, guess what? This will affect women and their careers the most, “said Pedro Barata, head of the Future Skills Center, a job research institute at Ryerson University.

Gender gap in child care and housework

Barata points to studies of heterosexual dual-income families who have found that when men and women work outside the home, the bulk of childcare and domestic work is still the responsibility of women. The pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, he says.

“It could actually be a step backwards in terms of gender equality in the workplace and in career paths. “

Workplaces will be radically different if and when everyone returns to work, says an expert, but there could be some benefits. 5:49

The pandemic has also forced Dei-Amoah’s husband to work at home, but the children consider him “the most fun”.

At first, Dei-Amoah attempted to tutor her six-year-old daughter with her reading difficulties and to take up the math challenges of her 10-year-old son. But, coupled with his banking work, it was not sustainable.

“I was like, ‘You know what? Get the hell out of here. I focus on their weaknesses, not their strengths, “said Dei-Amoah.

“We postpone certain tasks. But I don’t worry because it just makes my work day worse. ”

“Stress is what kills me”

In Lisa Iafrate’s case, the pandemic shattered her business ambitions, literally causing her to lose her hair.

“Stress is what kills me … because I have so much control,” said Iafrate.

Iafrate is a dynamic entrepreneur based in King City, Ontario, who quit her job several years ago to start a business called TaLii Towels which sells compact and antibacterial towels.

Lisa Iafrate, right, with King City Ont., Mayor Steve Pellegrini. (Submitted by Lisa Iafrate)

Iafrate has been successful in the trade show market, criss-crossing North America to sell its product. But when the pandemic hit, all the lounges that Iafrate reserved this year were canceled and its online activities dried up.

“Sales have completely stopped. Then I went into panic mode, ”said Iafrate.

After weeks of depression, she developed a plan to turn her towels into face masks, generating enough income to employ her 21-year-old daughter and five local seamstresses.

Lisa Iafrate’s daughter Talia works to transform their antibacterial towels into face masks. (Submitted by Lisa Iafrate)

However, as a 60-year-old single mother hurries to rebuild her business, she is exhausted from household chores around her house, which is now used as a home office.

“I work three times harder because I have to take care of the household as well as my business. And the company already takes 50 to 60 hours a week, “said Iafrate.

Childcare investment required

Barata says efforts to revive the coronavirus economy have focused on investing in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and construction, but politicians must recognize that this economic crisis is different from past downturns.

“Investments in infrastructure will be essential to revive the economy. But the same goes for child care. The same goes for women in terms of training and retraining, ”said Barata.

Dei-Amoah says she is fortunate that her bosses have a better understanding of how and when employees work. Her inbox is often busy in the evening between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. because many of her colleagues are placed in daycare in the afternoon.

“It allows people to better understand what flexibility is in the workplace,” said Dei-Amoah.

“As long as you do the work, it’s OK. “


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