Government of Canada launches new pilot program aimed at removing barriers to women’s employment 

News release

June 2, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Canadian workers, but some groups – including women – have been disproportionately affected and their economic recovery has been slower. The Government of Canada recognizes that a robust and inclusive recovery is necessarily a feminist recovery as well and that supports such as child care are critical to achieving that goal. Investing in new training and employment supports for women, with a focus on removing barriers to accessibility and inclusion, will ensure that no one is left further behind and that everyone takes part in Canada’s economic recovery.

Today, during National AccessAbility Week, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced the launch of a call for proposals for the new Women’s Employment Readiness (WER) pilot program.

Through the WER pilot program, organizations will test new approaches for helping marginalized women by providing pre-employment and training supports, including wrap-around supports such as transportation and child care, because we know that access means different things to different women. The pilot will also test ways to help employers remove barriers and improve workplace inclusion. Through funding of $50 million over two years, approved projects will serve one or more of these groups of women:

  • racialized and/or Indigenous women;
  • women with disabilities;
  • women from the LGBTQ2 community; and
  • women who have been out of the labour market for an extended period.

Eligible organizations are invited to submit their application by June 30, 2021.

As we celebrate National AccessAbility Week, we recognize the contributions of persons with disabilities and highlight the work done by individuals, communities, and workplaces to remove barriers to accessibility and to foster disability inclusion in Canada. Too often, women with disabilities face multiple barriers in life, and the WER pilot program is one way to help this group of Canadians overcome them. The Government of Canada believes that an inclusive economic recovery is one that offers the opportunity to advance gender equality and provide economic and social stability for all Canadians.


“Employment leads to independence, financial stability and inclusion. As we recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more important to support women’s economic participation, particularly racialized women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, women from the LGBTQ2 community, and women who have been away from the workforce for an extended period. This funding is about providing women with the tools that respond to their needs, and recognizing that a diverse workforce is a stronger and more resilient workforce. A successful and prosperous economic recovery is one in which all women can participate.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough


Quick facts

  • In March 2021, the Government of Canada created a Task Force on Women in the Economy to help guide a robust, inclusive and feminist recovery and to help address long-standing systemic barriers. Composed of a diverse group of experts and leading voices, the task force has begun advising the government of policies and measures to support women’s employment and address issues of gender equality in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Budget 2021 includes $101.4 billion over three years in proposed investments as part of the Government of Canada’s growth plan that will create good jobs and support a resilient and inclusive recovery. Key measures include:

    • Establishing a Canada-wide early learning and child care system, in partnership with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, which will help all families access affordable, high-quality, and flexible child care no matter where they live, and no longer shoulder the burden of high child care costs. The budget committed up to $30 billion over the next five years. Combined with previous investments, a minimum of $9.2 billion per year ongoing will be invested in childcare, starting in 2025-26.
    • Moving forward on a first-ever National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence to ensure that anyone facing gender-based violence has reliable and timely access to protection and services, no matter where they live, through an investment of $601.3 million over five years starting in 2021-22.
    • Supporting women, Black Canadians, and other underrepresented entrepreneurs who face barriers to launching and owning businesses through $300 million to enhance initiatives like the Black Entrepreneurship Program and the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.
    • Helping to build, repair, and support 35,000 affordable housing units for vulnerable Canadians through an investment of $2.5 billion and a reallocation of $1.3 billion in existing funding.
  • The Government will develop the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, which includes a new Canadian disability benefit, improved processes for eligibility for federal disability programs and benefits, and a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities.

    • $11.9 million has been proposed to undertake extensive consultations on reforms to the eligibility process, feeding directly into the design of the new disability benefit; 
    • $100 million under the Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) has been announced to help offset the costs of renovations, retrofits and accessible technologies for not-for-profit organizations, women’s shelters, small municipalities, and businesses of all sizes; and,
    • an additional $29.2 million, under the same fund, has been proposed to help support inclusive and accessible early learning and child care and make physical upgrades to child care centres that would improve accessibility.

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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