‘The gap is widening’: Alberta CEO Arlene Dickinson says pandemic has unfairly affected working women

Alberta CEO, entrepreneur and author Arlene Dickinson’s path to success started from nothing.

Read more: Canadian businesses owned by women taking nearly twice as long to recover from COVID-19

“Mom, single, four kids, no career, no skills, no education, and you know what? I took a job and got a job in media,” she told Global News on Sunday.

“It was at that time that I started to realize that I actually had an affinity towards marketing and then got asked to join as a partner at Venture [Communications], which really meant, ‘Could you come work with us for free? We can’t pay you any salary but we’ll give you some sweat equity.’”

Juggling everything

Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8, Dickinson told Global News how the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the advancement of women in the workforce back 30 years, in some respects.

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“We are now the caregivers of both our children and our parents and our homes and trying to balance a career and juggling all that against all of the things that are happening, [which] is virtually impossible, both mentally and physically,” she explained.

“So we see a lot of women having to give up their jobs and careers in order to take care of their families.”

The statistics are astounding, she said.

“In this past year in the pandemic, close to 21,000 women have lost their jobs and over 68,000 men have entered into the workforce… so the gap is widening,” she said.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Research indicates women in the workforce hit hard by COVID-19

“It’s getting worse… There’s a real shift happening, and we’re going to have to step it up to get back to normal again.”

‘Everyone has to be treated equally’

Dickinson explained that the best person for a job doesn’t always get it because of hiring practices.

Read more: Mothers of kids under age 6 make up majority of workforce exodus amid coronavirus: RBC

“There’s so much bias at the level of where people are investing in female entrepreneurs. There is a deep-rooted bias against it, and so it’s not an equal playing field,” she said.

“Everyone doesn’t get the same opportunity, and we have got to shift that. People have to go back to their HR departments and figure out whether or not they’re actually giving people the same opportunity and then select the best person. But how do you have the best person if you’re discounting 50 per cent of the workforce?”

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If you are an executive or running a business, take stock of if there is fairness when it comes to people applying, interviewing and getting accepted for jobs.

Read more: ‘Tired of the word resilience’: Canada’s racialized communities navigate ongoing pandemic

“Go back and see if you have equal pay in place so that women are paid the same. I’m not talking about just regular white women. I’m talking about Black, Indigenous, people of colour, all women, all genders, all relationships that are out there, all of the identities that are out there,” she said.

“We have got to be fair and equitable. Everyone has to be treated equally. That means thinking about everybody equally, putting in practices that allow that to happen.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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