Government of Canada helping remove barriers to training and employment for women

News release

March 7, 2022   Gatineau, Quebec                    Employment and Social Development Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impact on Canadian workers; but women have been disproportionately affected, and their economic recovery has been slower. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of investing in new training and employment supports for women, including eliminating barriers to their inclusion in the workforce, so that the country can achieve a strong and inclusive economic recovery.

Today, on the eve of International Women’s Day, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced 26 projects approved for funding under the Women’s Employment Readiness pilot program. These projects will test and provide foundational and transferable skills training models, such as literacy and essential skills as well as wrap-around supports to access skills training, including child care, transportation and counselling.

The pilot program funds organizations to provide and test pre-employment and skills development supports for women who face barriers to training and employment, as well as new ways to help employers increase inclusivity in the workplace. The pilot targets racialized women and/or Indigenous women, women with disabilities, women from the LGBTQ2 community and women who have been out of work for an extended period.

The pandemic exacerbated pre-existing labour market inequalities for many Canadians, including women. Women experienced disproportionate job losses, partly because many work in hard hit sectors, such as retail, restaurants and hospitality, and partly because of increased caring responsibilities, among other factors. Employment and training supports need to address the unique needs of diverse women so that they can fully benefit from economic recovery.

The pilot program will support women facing barriers across all 13 provinces and territories. The results of the pilot will inform systemic changes to skills and employment programming, to help women across the country gain better access to skills and training opportunities. 


“On the eve of International Women’s Day, we can take stock of the progress that women in Canada have made, and recognize the work still ahead. I’m proud to see our government invest in organizations that are leading that vital work by helping marginalized women overcome barriers to employment. This is about empowering more women to create better lives for themselves, while also building the strong, skilled and inclusive workforce Canada needs.”

– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted racialized women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities and the LGBTQ2 community. Today’s announcement, on the eve of International Women’s Day, is part of our government’s commitment to ensure that women are at the forefront of Canada’s economic recovery. We will continue to support women and girls and to ensure that their lived experiences are considered and valued.”

– Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, Marci Ien

Quick facts

  • Funding of up to $50 million, for these 26 projects, was included as part of the 2020 Fall Economic Statement. 

  • Women have made great strides in the past decades toward equality in the labour market. However, they still face many barriers and are not yet experiencing outcomes equal to men’s. Although women’s employment rates increased over the past decades, from 47% in 1976 to 67% in 2020, it has been relatively stable since 2008, maintaining a difference of approximately six percentage points compared to men (73%). Some key barriers to gender equality in the labour market persist, notably the unbalanced sharing of family responsibilities, barriers faced by mothers in the workplace, social norms related to gender roles and discrimination in the workplace. The COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these challenges.

  • On average, women earn and participate in the labour market less than men and have lower employment rates. For example, women generally earn $0.87 for every dollar earned by men (Statistics Canada, 2018). The earnings gap is worse for women facing multiple barriers, such as racialized women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities and women from the LGBTQ2 community, among others.

  • The Government of Canada makes significant investments in programs such as the bilateral labour market development agreements and workforce development agreements with provinces and territories. In addition, federal programs such as the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program, the Skills for Success program, the Union Training and Innovation Program, the Skilled Trades Awareness and Readiness program, the Apprenticeship Grants and the Apprenticeship Service are helping women get the training and develop the skills they need in the workforce. 

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Jane Deeks
Director of Communications
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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