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November 19, 2020

CALU Chair Cindy David speaks on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women

Dear Member,

Chair Cindy David addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women as part of a panel on the effects the pandemic on women.

Cindy spoke about the oversized impact the current health and economic crisis is having on women across the economy, including female entrepreneurs and women in business. Women have taken on much of the soaring child-care, home schooling and eldercare needs families face today, which can significantly affect their careers and businesses. Cindy advocated for regulatory and tax reforms to give women the gift of more time and greater financial certainty with their business. 

Here are her remarks:

(CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)

Thank you, Madam Chair, vice-chairs, and committee members. It is my pleasure to have this opportunity to speak with you today.

I’m the chair of CALU, the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting.

CALU is Canada’s only professional association dedicated to leadership in advanced planning solutions and advocacy to promote the financial health of Canadians. Our more than 600 members represent Canada’s top-tier of insurance and financial advisors as well as accounting, tax, legal and actuarial experts.

We support our members through education, technical guidance and opportunities for information sharing and networking. Through a strategic partnership with Advocis, we advocate on behalf of more than 13,000 advisors in support of fair and competitive public policies for Canadians and family businesses.

Ours has been a traditionally male-dominated industry. But this is changing.

Today more than 18% of our members are women, up from just 13% eight years ago. While we have some way to go, women are clearly on a fast track to leadership in our industry. My appointment this year as the third female chair of our organization provides some additional encouragement for this, as do the other three female directors on our board.

This is the good news. Far less promising are the deep cracks in the foundation of women’s advancement that have been exposed by COVID-19.

I am sure that this committee has heard substantial evidence about the outsized impacts of the pandemic on women. Many women work in the retail, hospitality and health care industries that have been most affected.

For some, this has meant having to continue to work amid health risks for themselves and their families so the rest of us have access to essential services. For others it’s meant losing their jobs and income as stores, restaurants and other front-line employers reduce operations or shut down altogether.

Added to this is the reality that women still take on the lion’s share of childcare, home-schooling and eldercare needs, all of which have soared during the pandemic.

There is no question that these impacts are being felt the hardest by women who have precarious employment and/or are low-income earners....Those who have the least ability to cushion the impacts, make adjustments and ride out the pandemic.

Addressing the needs of these women must be a priority for the urgent response of our government.

At the same time, it’s also important to recognize the impact that COVID-19 is having on the advancement of women across our economy. A recent study we conducted with CALU members found that our female members have seen a significantly greater impact on their business from the pandemic than have our male members.

These women are among the most senior and successful advisors in Canada. Yet they too are affected by the gender imbalance that sees childcare, home schooling and eldercare fall disproportionately on their shoulders.

We are also seeing this experience play out with our members’ female clients, many of whom, like our members, are self-employed and entrepreneurs.

It’s likely that COVID-19 has taken women back many years in terms of economic stability and career advancement because of the increased family-related responsibilities that fall to them.

And yet we need these women in our economy. Canada is strongest when our entire workforce can contribute their skills and talents....And when our investments in women’s education are realized with the creation of successful new women-led businesses that fulfill our potential to create, innovate and drive economic growth.

Many would agree that a sustainable system of affordable child-care is key to enabling women’s advancement, However, I would like to speak to what we see as an equally urgent and growing need. That is for a national senior’s strategy that would help address eldercare issues.

A national seniors’ strategy could bring together all Canadian stakeholders to address the many unmet needs of seniors, including long-term care funding issues.

This is a complex issue with many parts. CALU would like to see the solutions include ensuring that Canadians have access to products that can help fund the costs of quality long-term care support for themselves and their families.

This would help reduce the need to fill gaps in the care of aging family members, that so often fall to women.

When the time comes that we can address recovery, we fully support the government’s stated strategy of a growth-led recovery, rather than reliance on taxation.

To provide greater certainty to the hundreds of thousands of women who head small businesses, we would like to see the government support the smooth succession of family businesses to the next generation of family members.

Right now, it makes more financial sense to sell family businesses to third parties rather than family. Removing the barriers to family business succession would surely help stimulate growth in this critical engine of our economy and spur a more rapid recovery.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the committee.

I’d be happy to answer your questions.

View the webcast of the meeting here. (Cindy begins her statement at 11:17:14 of the webcast)

Best regards,

Guy Legault, MBA, FCPA, FCGA, CAE
President and CEO