Racialized and Immigrant Women at the Pandemic Frontlines: A Feminist Inquiry into the Lives of Essential Workers in Ontario.
This study seeks to examine the gendered work performed by racialized and immigrant women who are “essential workers” at the forefront of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The pandemic has revealed that both these groups of women make up a significant portion of frontline workers who perform essential services across the Canadian labour market. The overarching research question for this study is: How does the structural organization of gendered inequalities at the site of work exacerbate the vulnerabilities facing racialized and immigrant “essential workers” who are at the forefront of the COVID‑19 pandemic? By investigating the experiences of racialized and immigrant women through an interdisciplinary perspective and among interested stakeholders, the research seeks to address four principal objectives: (1) to understand the uniquely gendered ways in which immigrant and racialized women, as essential workers, are impacted by COVID-19; (2) to identify the coping strategies these racialized women utilized to manage the pandemic impacts; (3) to examine the usefulness of strategies and programs implemented in response to COVID‑19 by governments and employers to the lives of these workers, and (4) to understand racialized and immigrant women’s expectations for long-term structural changes that will address gender inequality to transform their working conditions. Focusing on three cities in Southwestern Ontario: London, Windsor and Sarnia, we will conduct in-depth interviews with 90 women (30 per city) to provide detailed stories about their work-related experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The study will employ a feminist narrative inquiry to address the research objectives and to examine the gendered nature of “essential work” at the forefront of the pandemic as this relates to immigrant and racialized women. This methodology utilizes a storytelling approach to understand how personal experiences are shaped by social structures. To ensure feasibility, five students (one PhD, three Master’s (MA) and one undergrad (UG) student) will be hired for this study; all students will receive training in qualitative research practices including the development of interview guides, in-depth interviewing and data analysis; feminist-informed theories and gender-based analyses. MA students will write theses based on the data and will be encouraged to produce publishable manuscripts from the findings.
This is a two-year study with expected outcomes as follows: 1. Enhanced, interdisciplinary theoretical and pedagogical insights and fostering of collaborative research projects across different subject areas; 2. Evidenced-based policy development to address gendered work, pay equity, and childcare services; and, 3. A critically-informed understanding of the challenges facing immigrant and racialized workers at the forefront of the pandemic.
The knowledge created from the study will be accessible and useful to the general public, interdisciplinary scholars, employers, policy makers and implementers to inform policy responses to COVID-19. The findings will also contribute to the work of knowledge users and community partners who work with immigrant and racialized communities, as well as to advocates for pay equity, affordable childcare services, and safe working conditions. In the interest of broad dissemination of study findings, we plan to use social media (e.g. facebook, twitter, in collaboration with Western Research), traditional media platforms (e.g. The Conversation, Policy4Women, radio interviews), academic conferences, public policy meetings, zoom meetings and publications, to communicate the results to a variety of audiences.