March 12, 2012 – Every year, Skills for Change, a Toronto settlement agency, helps about 14,000 newcomers settle in Canada. Of that number, over 55% are immigrant women. By 2031, it is predicted that 5.8 million people out of 11.1 million immigrants to Canada will be women.
Women in leadership roles are underrepresented across Canada’s largest city, while female visible immigrants are almost absent from top jobs. And female immigrants, who account for about a quarter of residents in the GTA, make up less than 1 per cent of corporate leaders. A recent Toronto Board of Trade report, featuring interviews with immigrant women in leadership roles, states that “…they encountered a multitude of personal, professional, cultural and career challenges … [and] often make personal sacrifices to achieve their goals.” These sacrifices included juggling “double day” shifts, gender-based workplace harassment, domestic violence, and difficulties accessing the same training and employment opportunities as men.
On Wednesday, March 7, International Women’s Day, Skills for Change announced the launch of a new project to address this problem. The project, focusing on Immigrant Women in Leadership, will review the ways in which settlement and employment services are provided for newcomer women, with a view to changing – and improving – their circumstances by providing the most effective and helpful services possible for them.
“We are also embracing a bold use of information and communication technologies to adapt to the changing nature of the immigration landscape,” says Cheryl May, Executive Director of Skills for Change. “We are committed to open innovation, and believe that we can encourage widespread adoption of ‘ideas that work’.”
Ms. May has also extended the organization’s thanks to Status of Women Canada for their financial support of the gender-based analysis project, Gender Consideration When Developing Programming for Immigrant Women.Skills for Change is in the process of convening an advisory group and service providers network in support of immigrant women and leadership.