Transcript: A Pandemic Upending Women's Lives | Apr 20, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, checkered blue shirt, and midnight blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "A pandemic upending women's lives. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says RIGHT FROM THE VERY EARLY DAYS OF THIS PANDEMIC, ECONOMISTS BEGAN TALKING ABOUT A "SHE-CESSION." JOBS OFTEN DONE BY WOMEN WERE HIGH ON THE LIST OF THOSE LOST TO LOCKDOWNS, JUST AS MANY OTHERS DEEMED ESSENTIAL, WERE THOSE DONE BY WOMEN. WITH US NOW TO FIND OUT ABOUT THEIR LIVES, A YEAR AND COUNTING, INTO THIS PANDEMIC, WE WELCOME: IN SHELBURNE, ONTARIO, THAT'S IN DUFFERIN COUNTY: KALLISHA HOYES, A GROCERY STORE MANAGER IN MISSISSAUGA...

Kallisha is in her thirties, with long braided black hair. She's wearing an asymmetrical burgundy blouse.

Steve continues IN DURHAM REGION: BIRGIT UMAIGBA, AN INTENSIVE CARE UNIT NURSE, WHO ALSO TEACHES NURSING AT CENTENNIAL COLLEGE...

Birgit is in her thirties, with straight black hair. She's wearing a purple blazer and a black headscarf.

Steve continues AND IN THE EAST END OF THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: AMANDA MUNDAY, OWNER-OPERATOR OF THE WORKAROUND, A PROFESSIONAL WORK SPACE WITH CHILD CARE ON THE PREMISES...

Amanda is in her thirties, with long brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a khaki shirt.

Steve continues AND ALSO IN THE CITY'S EAST END THERE'S JOURNALIST LAUREN MCKEON, WHO'S LATEST BOOK IS: MCKEON, WHOSE LATEST BOOK IS: "WOMEN OF THE PANDEMIC: STORIES FROM THE FRONT LINES OF COVID-19."

Lauren is in her thirties, with long wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black jacket.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover is blue, with a drawing of a female figure in yellow, wearing a white facemask.

Steve continues WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME YOU ON TVO TONIGHT FOR AN IMPORTANT AND TIMELY DISCUSSION. I WANT TO KICK IT OFF BY READING AN EXCERPT FROM LAUREN'S BOOK TO GET US INTO OUR CONVERSATION. SHELDON, PLEASE BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP AND AWAY WE GO...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The heroes of this crisis." The quote reads "The story of the pandemic was the story of women. In Canada, women comprise 81 percent of healthcare workers. Notably, they make up the vast majority of nurses, social workers, and with personal support workers (PSWs). Beyond the healthcare front line, the New York Times estimated that one in three jobs held by women had been designated as essential during nation-wide shutdowns, and that racialized women, specifically held more essential jobs than anybody else. Throughout the pandemic, these women were tasked with keeping our bodies and minds healthy, with keeping us fed, with keeping our hospitals and public spaces clean, with helping the most vulnerable among us, and wit being near our bedsides when we dies."
Quoted from Lauren McKeon, "Women of the pandemic." 2021.

Steve says LAUREN, TELL ME. THIS WAS YOUR THIRD BOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR MISSION IN WRITING THIS BOOK?

The caption changes to "Lauren McKeon. Author, 'Women of the pandemic.'"
Then, it changes again to "Setbacks."

Lauren says WELL, I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, WOMEN'S STORIES SO OFTEN GET OVERLOOKED. WE GET LEFT BEHIND. AND I DIDN'T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN WITH THE PANDEMIC, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE WE HAVE... WOMEN HAVE LOST THE MOST BUT WE'VE ALSO LED US THROUGH THESE EXTRAORDINARY TIMES AND I THINK WE NEED TO REMEMBER THESE STORIES FOR YEARS TO COME AND WE NEED TO HIGHLIGHT THEM.

Steve says WHAT KIND OF FOLKS DID YOU INTERVIEW FOR THE BOOK?

Lauren says SO MANY WOMEN. I SPOKE TO OVER 50 WOMEN, FROM LONG-HAUL TRUCKERS WHO ARE BRINGING SUPPLIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, TO WOMEN ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION, TO ESSENTIAL WORKERS, TO MOTHERS, TO PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO KEEP THEIR BUSINESS, TO SCIENTISTS WHO ARE DEVELOPING VACCINES. YOU KNOW, WE WERE EVERYWHERE AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE SO MANY STORIES TO TELL.

Steve says WELL, WE HAVE SOME OF THOSE STORIES THAT WE'RE GOING TO TELL THIS EVENING, STARTING BIRGIT, WITH YOU. WHEN THE PANDEMIC FIRST HIT, HOW DID IT CHANGE YOUR LIFE?

The caption changes to "Birgit Umaigba. I.C.U. Nurse."

Birgit says OH, A LOT. SO AS AN IMMIGRANT, I'M A SOLE-SUPPORT PARENT, I ACTUALLY LACKED THE SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORK TO BE ABLE TO WORK FULL TIME AND LOOK AFTER MY 9-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER. DEFINITE. AND THIS IS A STORY OF SO MANY OF US, NOT JUST ME. I HAVE COLLEAGUES THAT HAVE, YOU KNOW, TODDLERS, SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN AT HOME. SOME OF THEM ARE SOLE-SUPPORT PARENTS AND ARE WORKING. I ACTUALLY HAVE A COLLEAGUE WHO HAD TO QUIT HER JOB AS A NURSE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE SHE HAD NO SUPPORTS TO KEEP WORKING. DEFINITELY, WE ARE BEARING THE BRUNT OF THE CRISIS, AND IT'S HAVING A TOLL ON A LOT OF US.

Steve says HOW MUCH ARE YOU ABLE TO WORK THESE DAYS?

Birgit says THESE DAYS, I'M ABLE TO WORK TWO OR THREE SHIFTS A WEEK, SO IT'S REALLY CHALLENGING. A LOT OF US ARE TRYING TO GET OUR VOICES OUT THERE AND SEEK SUPPORT. SOME OF US ARE MOTHERS WAITING FOR OUR SPOUSES TO BE REUNITED WITH US. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF US OUT THERE. A LOT OF US ARE FRONT LINE WORKERS WAITING FOR THE MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION TO PRIORITIZE FAMILY SPONSORSHIPS SO WE CAN HAVE THE SUPPORT WE NEED TO WORK.

Steve says WAITING FOR YOUR SPOUSE. THAT'S YOUR SITUATION. YOUR HUSBAND IS IN NIGERIA?

Birgit says THAT'S CORRECT.

Steve says WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS OF GETTING HIM OVER HERE?

Birgit says OH, WOW. RIGHT NOW IT'S MORE A WAITING GAME. WE'VE BEEN TOLD THAT CoVID HAS PUT A STOP ON SO MANY OF THE APPLICATIONS, BUT WE KNOW THAT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE BEING PRIORITIZED RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THAT'S THE SITUATION AND A LOT OF US ARE CANADIANS WAITING FOR OUR SPOUSES AND WE'RE NOT REALLY GETTING UPDATES, UNFORTUNATELY.

Steve says THANKS FOR THAT. KALLISHA, HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC AFFECTED YOUR FAMILY?

The caption changes to "Kallisha Hoyes. Grocery Store Manager."

Kallisha says OH, IT'S AFFECTED US GREATLY. I HAVE TWO YOUNG BOYS, SO WITH THEM HAVING TO BE HOME-SCHOOLED, IT JUST CHANGED THE WHOLE DYNAMIC OF WHAT I'M USED TO, SENDING THEM TO SCHOOL. I HAD TO RELY ON MY IN-LAWS, AND THEY'RE A BIT OLDER. SO I ALSO JUST... IT WAS VERY HARD ON ME BECAUSE BEING A FRONT LINE WORKER AND SEEING SO MANY PEOPLE EVERY DAY, IT JUST MADE ME VERY NERVOUS, THE THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY BRING BACK TO MY FAMILY, RIGHT? SO IT WAS VERY HARD.

Steve says YOU'RE A GROCERY STORE MANAGER; YES?

Kallisha says I AM.

Steve says SO YOU ARE CONSIDERED... YOU'RE CONSIDERED AN A-1 FRONT LINE REAL, IMPORTANT, ESSENTIAL WORKER AT A TIME LIKE THIS. HOW DOES THAT FEEL?

Kallisha says I AM. IT FEELS GOOD. IT FEELS GOOD. BUT IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT KIND OF MAKES US FEEL LIKE, YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN DOING THIS JOB FOR ALMOST 15 YEARS NOW. SO TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED AS A FRONT LINE WORKER NOW IS GREAT, BUT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN DOING THE SAME JOB AND WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN THE BACKBONE TO THIS COMMUNITY.

Steve says FUNNY HOW WE KIND OF KNOW THAT NOW IN A WAY WE DIDN'T KNOW THAT BEFORE, EH?

Kallisha says 100 PERCENT.

Steve says 100 PERCENT. OKAY, AMANDA, LET'S BRING YOU IN. HOW HAS ALL THIS BEEN FOR YOU?

The caption changes to "Amanda Munday. The Workaround."

Amanda says IT'S BEEN A ONE, TWO, THREE, TWENTY PUNCH. I'M A MOTHER OF TWO KIDS. MY KIDS ARE 6 AND 4. AND I OWN A SMALL BUSINESS IRONICALLY THAT HELPS WORKING PARENTS ACCESS FLEXIBLE CHILD CARE WHEN THEY CAN'T WORK FROM HOME. I'VE BEEN CLOSED SINCE, YOU KNOW, WE WERE SHUT DOWN IN THE FIRST WAVE OF THE PANDEMIC IN MARCH 2020. WE REOPENED IN JULY. I'M IN EAST TORONTO. WE WERE THEN ORDERED CLOSED BY THE TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH IN NOVEMBER AS PART OF THE GRAY LOCKDOWN. AND WE HAVEN'T BEEN ALLOWED TO REOPEN SINCE. SO I HAVEN'T BEEN ALLOWED TO MAKE A DOLLAR OF REVENUE IN MONTHS AND MONTHS. YOU KNOW, I HAD NINE STAFF. I LAID EVERYBODY BUT TWO TEACHERS OFF. I'VE BEEN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE WAGE SUBSIDY VERSUS THE EMERGENCY BENEFITS FOR MYSELF.'o OH, AND MY TWO KIDS ARE CURRENTLY AROUND THE CORNER ONLINE LEARNING AT HOME.

Steve says OH, SO YOU'RE NOT AT HOME RIGHT NOW?

Amanda says I AM AT HOME. LIKE, BY "AROUND THE CORNER," I LITERALLY MEAN OVER MY SHOULDER.

Steve says OKAY. IF THEY WANT TO MAKE A CAMEO AT SOME POINT, THAT'S OKAY. WE'VE HAD LOTS OF KIDS, PETS, PARENTS... ANYWAY, LOTS OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF CAMEOS ON THIS PROGRAM OVER THE LAST YEAR. TELL ME, HOW EASY OR DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO NAVIGATE ALL OF THE SUPPORTS THAT THE VARIOUS LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT HAVE PUT IN PLACE DURING THE COURSE OF THE PANDEMIC?

Amanda says I HAVE PUT OUT A PUBLIC PETITION THAT SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS SHOULD BE AWARDED MBAs FOR THE FINANCIAL MODELLING, PREDICTIONS... I DON'T WANT ANYONE TO SAY THE WORD "PIVOT." TO ME ONE MORE TIME. YOU KNOW, THERE'S SO MANY COMPLICATED FACTORS IN TERMS OF... I HAVE TO KEEP THE BUSINESS ALIVE. I RUN A BRICK AND MORTAR SPACE. WHICH MEANS MY FIXED COSTS ARE CONSISTENT REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT I'M OPEN. RENT IS STILL RENT. HYDRO IS STILL HYDRO. FIGURING OUT HOW I'M GOING TO PAY THE TOP-UP FROM A WAGE SUBSIDY THAT 75 percent, I STILL OWN THE 25. THE RENT SUBSIDY WE'RE GETTING 90 percent NOW IN LOCKDOWN BUT THAT MEANS THERE'S A 10 percent DELTA. YOU KNOW, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THE RIGHT THING, WHEN TO APPLY, I WOULD SAY, THE TWO THINGS I FOCUS ON IN ADDITION TO PARENTING FULL TIME IS APPLYING FOR SUBSIDIES, PAYING THE BILLS WITH THE SUBSIDIES, AND THEN FIGURING OUT, HOW DO I EXPAND THE BUSINESS TO SURVIVE THIS AND WHAT DOES RECOVERY LOOK LIKE?

Steve says WE'LL GET TO THAT LATER. LAUREN, YOU'VE NOW HEARD THREE OTHER STORIES IN ADDITION TO THE 50-PLUS YOU HAD IN YOUR BOOK. HOW TYPICAL ARE THE ONES WE'RE JUST HEARING TONIGHT?

The caption changes to "Lauren McKeon, @mckeonlauren."

Lauren says YOU KNOW, I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT WOMEN HAVE HAD SUCH A DIVERSE RANGE OF EXPERIENCES. THAT SAID, THE STRUGGLES THAT WE JUST HEARD ABOUT AND THE CHALLENGES, THOSE ARE EXTRAORDINARILY COMMON. I DON'T THINK... YOU KNOW, NO ONE HAS HAD AN EASY TIME DURING THE PANDEMIC. MOTHERS ESPECIALLY HAVE JUST FACED TEN TIMES MORE CHALLENGES, TWENTY TIMES MORE CHALLENGES THAN OTHERS.

Steve says AND EVEN IN A HOME WHERE THERE ARE TWO PRESUMABLY EQUAL CO-PARENTS, YOU STILL FIND IT'S THE MOTHERS WHO BEAR A DISPROPORTIONATE PART OF THE RESPONSIBILITY? YOU ARE HEARING THAT?

Lauren says YEAH. I MEAN, THAT HASN'T CHANGED OVER THE PANDEMIC. AND IN FACT I THINK THE PANDEMIC HAS ONLY EXACERBATED IT. A STUDY JUST CAME OUT OF CANADIAN WORKING PARENTS AND WE KNOW THAT TWELVE TIMES AS MANY MOTHERS AS FATHERS HAVE HAD TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS TO CARE FOR THEIR SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN. I THINK THAT SAYS RIGHT THERE THAT EVEN IN THE HOMES THAT HAVE THE MOST MAYBE EQUAL INTENT OR INTENT TO BE EQUAL, IT'S NOT WHAT'S HAPPENED. YOU KNOW, WE'RE TRYING TO ROLL BACK SOMETHING THAT HAS EXISTED FOR A REALLY LONG TIME.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says YUP. BIRGIT, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE. I REALLY WANT TO TAP INTO YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE FRONT LINES IN HEALTH CARE BECAUSE OF YOUR WORK AS A NURSE. WE HEAR, THE SCIENCE TABLE, THE BRIEFINGS FROM THE PREMIER, THE BRIEFINGS FROM THE HEALTH CARE EXPERTS, WE HEAR THAT ICUs ARE AT THE BURSTING POINT RIGHT NOW. WHAT'S YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON THAT FRONT IN.

The caption changes to "Birgit Umaigba, @birgitomo."
Then, it changes again to "Life at work."

Birgit says THAT'S CORRECT. SO I THINK THAT MAYBE IT DOESN'T DO JUSTICE TO WHAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING. WE KNOW THAT A LOT OF NURSES, THE MAJORITY ARE WOMEN, AND THE MAJORITY ARE JUGGLING, YOU KNOW, HOME-SCHOOLING... I DON'T KNOW HOW WE ARE ACTUALLY DOING IT AND ALSO GOING TO WORK IN THE ICU. SO NURSES ARE... WE ARE ALL STRESSED. IT'S SO CHALLENGING TO BE IN THE ICU RIGHT NOW. WE ARE WATCHING PATIENTS DIE ALONE. TRYING TO FACILITATE VIDEO CALLS WITH FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES AS MUCH AS WE CAN WITH ALL THE TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES AS WELL. I HAVE COLLEAGUES THAT ARE QUITTING. I HAVE COLLEAGUES THAT ARE BREAKING DOWN AND ACTUALLY NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO. WE ALSO HEARD OF STORIES OF UNFORTUNATELY NURSES WHO TOOK THEIR LIVES DURING THIS PANDEMIC. THERE'S A HEIGHTENED LEVEL OF STRESS AND TRAUMA. AND NOW WE'RE TALKING ABOUT POSSIBLE TRIAGE PROTOCOL WHERE DOCTORS, NURSES WILL HAVE TO WITNESS A DECISION OF WHO GETS TO LIVE AND WHO GETS TO DIE. I DON'T KNOW HOW WE'RE GOING TO GET THROUGH THAT. A LOT OF US ARE GOING TO NEED THERAPISTS TO REALLY GO THROUGH THAT.

Steve says BIRGIT, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THAT VERY THOROUGH AND HEART-BREAKING ANSWER, YOU DID NOT TELL US ONE DETAIL. YOU'VE GOT CoVID-19. YES?

Birgit says YES. I HAVE SAID THIS SO MANY TIMES. UNFORTUNATELY LAST YEAR I HAD TO ISOLATE I WAS WITH A PATIENT WHO EVENTUALLY CAME BACK POSITIVE WITH CoVID. AND THAT WAS OKAY. IN OCTOBER, I GOT CoVID MYSELF AND I HAD TO ISOLATE AND THIS WAS WITHOUT PAY BECAUSE, AS WE KNOW, CERB OR CERB IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT. SO I DID NOT QUALIFY FOR CERB. AND THEN CR AS WAS GIVING 200 dollars AND THAT IS NOT PAYING SICK DAYS, ABSOLUTELY NOT. SO EVEN THE STRUGGLE OF COMING HOME TO MY DAUGHTER, SHE WAS CRYING. IT WAS SO TRAUMATIC FOR HER. SHE THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE. I TOLD HER WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. WE HAVE TO COPE AND MANAGE.

Steve says WHO TOOK CARE OF YOUR DAUGHTER WHILE YOU WERE SICK?

Birgit says I DID.

Steve says YOU DID?

Birgit says MM-HMM.N

Steve says OBVIOUSLY YOU GOT THROUGH CoVID-19 BUT HOW BADLY DID IT KNOCK YOU ON YOUR BACK?

Birgit says IT TOOK A WHILE TO GET MY STRENGTH AND ENERGY LEVEL JUST TO BE ABLE TO GO BACK TO WORK. I HAVE TO GO TO WORK. I HAVE TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE. THIS IS WHY WE'RE SAYING THAT PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO GO TO WORK SICK, UNFORTUNATELY, BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE THE BREADWINNERS OF THEIR FAMILIES. AS LONG AS WE DON'T HAVE PAID SICK DAYS, IT TAKES A LOT FOR SOMEONE TO REALLY SIT AT HOME WHEN THEY KNOW THEY WON'T HAVE ANY INCOME AND THE ENTIRE FAMILY WILL SUFFER. SO, YES, IT WAS A STRUGGLE GETTING ON MY FEET AND GO BACK TO WORK.

Steve says WE GLAD YOU RECOVERED AND WE'RE GLAD THAT THINGS WORKED OUT WITH YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER. THAT'S A BEAUTIFUL THING.

Birgit says THANK YOU.

Steve says KALLISHA, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE. THE CHANGES THAT YOU'VE HAD TO MAKE IN THE WORKPLACE IN ORDER TO ADAPT TO THE NEW REALITIES OF CoVID-19, WHAT'S THAT BEEN LIKE?

Kallisha says OH, IT'S BEEN PRETTY... PRETTY HARD. IT'S JUST... IT'S CONSTANTLY OVERTHINKING EVERYTHING THAT WE'RE DOING. AS WE'RE PUTTING THROUGH A CUSTOMER AND THEN WE'RE ONTO THE NICE CUSTOMER. OKAY, DID I WIPE OFF THE DEBIT MACHINE? DID I WIPE OFF THE BELT? CONSTANTLY SECOND GUESSING. I USED TO EAT MY LUNCH WHILE I DO SOMETHING AT THE SAME TIME, I CAN'T DO ANYMORE. MY HANDS ARE LITERALLY CRACKING AT THE END OF THE DAY WITH THE AMOUNT OF HAND SANITIZER I HAVE TO USE. I THINK MORE THAN ANYTHING, IT'S THE CONSTANT SECOND-GUESSING. YOU PUT YOUR HAND TO YOUR FACE. IT'S THE OVER THINKING GETTING TO MOST OF US.

Steve says HOW UNDERSTANDING HAVE YOUR CUSTOMERS BEEN?

Kallisha says I THINK, LIKE, MOST... MOST ARE PRETTY UNDERSTANDING AND PRETTY NICE. I DEFINITELY FIND A LOT MORE CUSTOMERS BEING A LOT MORE GRATEFUL FOR OUR SERVICE. YOU HEAR DEFINITELY A LOT MORE THANK YOUS, EVEN JUST SIMPLY WALKING BY IN THE STORE, THEY'LL SAY THANK YOU FOR COMING IN, THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU'RE DOING. SO IT HAS BEEN VERY NICE TO SEE THAT THE CUSTOMERS REALLY ARE ACKNOWLEDGING THE FACT THAT WE'RE COMING AND WE'RE LEAVING OUR FAMILIES EVERY DAY TO DO THIS JOB. YEAH, DEFINITELY.

Steve says ANY EMPLOYEES AT YOUR PLACE GET CoVID-19?

Kallisha says YEAH, WE HAVE HAD A FEW CASES IN MY STORE.

Steve says AND WHAT HAPPENS?

Kallisha says THEY'RE OFF FOR A COUPLE WEEKS AND, AGAIN, WITHOUT PAID SICK DAYS, UNFORTUNATELY. AND, AGAIN, AS SHE SAID BEFORE TOO, A LOT OF PEOPLE, IT'S HARD FOR THEM TO STAY HOME. IT'S HARD FOR ME TO STAY HOME. MY INCOME IS VERY IMPORTANT IN MY HOUSEHOLD. SO IT'S HARD FOR US TO STAY HOME. IF YOU HAVE A SYMPTOM AND YOU'RE KIND OF WONDERING, MAYBE IT'S JUST A COLD, I DON'T THINK IT'S CoVID. YOU SEE PEOPLE COME IN COUGHING AND STUFF AND, "NO, IT'S ALLERGIES." DEFINITELY THE PAID SICK DAY IS IMPORTANT TO US.

Steve says HAVE YOU HAD TO SAY TO ANYBODY, YOU DON'T SOUND TOO HEALTHY RIGHT NOW. I'M SENDING YOU HOME?

Kallisha says OH, DEFINITELY, A COUPLE OF TIMES. EVEN JUST FOR INTERVIEWS, TRYING TO BRING IN SOME PEOPLE. WE DON'T HAVE A LOT OF DAYTIME STAFF. A LOT OF DAYTIME STAFF IS NORMALLY OLDER WOMEN AND OLDER WOMEN DON'T WANT TO WORK IN A GROCERY STORE RIGHT NOW, WHICH IS UNDERSTANDABLE. EVEN INTERVIEWING LAST WEEK SOMEONE I WAS SPEAKING TO HAD A COUGH AND I SAID, WE'LL SPEAK IN TWO WEEKS. IT'S OKAY. YOU KNOW?

Steve says AMANDA, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE. HOW WAS BUSINESS AT THE WORK WORKAROUND BEFORE THE PANDEMIC KICKED IN?

Amanda says WE OPENED IN THE FALL OF 2019 AND CLOSED IN MARCH OF 2020 SO WE WERE ONLY OPEN ABOUT SIX MONTHS. WE HAD 220 PLUS UNIQUE CHILDREN. IT WAS A PROFITABLE FLEX DAYTIME CHILD CARE AND CO-WORKING BUSINESS, ONE I WAS PLANNING ON OPENING NEW LOCATIONS IN 2020, ACTUALLY.

Steve says WHAT PROSPECTS DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOR GETTING THE BUSINESS OPEN AND WHEN?

The caption changes to "Amanda Munday, @amandabella."

Amanda says YOU KNOW, IT'S REALLY HARD IN ONTARIO AND IN TORONTO IN PARTICULAR RIGHT NOW. I'M IN AN INDOOR SHARED SPACE WITH SHARED WASHROOMS, SHARED KITCHEN FACILITIES, AND AT THE SAME TIME DAY CARE, WHICH IS SO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT FOR WORKING PARENTS. AND SO... I'M OPTIMISTIC BY THE FEDERAL BUDGET, CHILD CARE FUNDING. THAT GIVES ME SOME HOPE THAT THE BUSINESS HAS SOME REALLY AMAZING GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES IN THE FUTURE. IN THE SHORT TERM, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO BE CLOSED FOR A LITTLE WHILE STILL. I ECHO KALLISHA. THE NUMBER OF BLEACHING WE DID AND DISINFECTING AND CLEANING AND SPRAYING DOWN DOOR HANDLES... I MEAN, I HAVE 13,000 SQUARE FEET AND I LAID ALL MY STAFF OFF. IT WAS ME WHO WAS DOING ALL OF THAT. YOU KNOW, I JUST WANT TO GET BACK TO SERVING AS MANY FAMILIES AS SOON AS WE CAN.

Steve says WE HOPE YOU GET THAT CHANCE. LAUREN, THAT'S A WOMAN-OWNED BUSINESS THAT WE'VE JUST HEARD FROM THERE. HOW DID THE PANDEMIC, BROADLY SPEAKING, AFFECT FEMALE-OWNED BUSINESSES OVERALL?

Lauren says I THINK WE'RE SEEING A TREND HERE AND THAT IS THAT WOMEN HAVE SUFFERED MORE, AND THAT CERTAINLY HAS BEEN THE CASE FOR WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES. THEY'VE FACED HIGHER CHALLENGES, YOU KNOW, PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE SECTORS THAT WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUILD A BUSINESS IN, WHICH IS HOSPITALITY, CARE, YOU KNOW, THINGS THAT... BUSINESSES THAT HAVE BORNE THE BRUNT OF THE CLOSURES. SO I THINK ACROSS THE BOARD WE'RE SEEING NOT ONLY WOMEN EMPLOYEES BUT CERTAINLY WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS LOSE OUT.

Steve says LAUREN, FOLLOW UP WITH THIS, IF YOU WOULD? BECAUSE I KNOW IT CANNOT HAVE ESCAPED THE ATTENTION OF ANY OF THE PEOPLE ON THIS PROGRAM TONIGHT THAT CHRYSTIA FREELAND, THE FINANCE MINISTER, ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY A MULTI-YEAR, MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CHILD CARE PROGRAM WITH THE IDEA BEING EVENTUALLY TO GET TO A 10 dollars A DAY PER CHILD PROGRAM. IMAGINE THAT PROGRAM IN PLACE, LAUREN. WHAT KIND OF A GAME-CHANGER IS IT?

The caption changes to "Trying to balance it all."

Lauren says YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S A HUGE GAME-CHANGER, IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A HUGE GAME CHANGER. AFFORDABLE CHILD CARE IS SOMETHING WOMEN HAVE BEEN LOBBYING FOR FOR DECADES. AS I SAID BEFORE, THE PANDEMIC HASN'T CREATED THESE PROBLEMS BUT IT HAS EXPOSED THEM AND IT'S MADE THEM UNDENIABLE. AND I THINK IT'S VERY UNDENIABLE NOW THAT WE NEED AFFORDABLE CHILD CARE. AT THE SAME TIME, WOMEN HAVE TO HAVE JOBS TO RETURN TO AND WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT AS WELL. YOU KNOW, CHILD CARE IS ONLY ONE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE TO HELP WOMEN TO GET THEM BACK TO WORK.

Steve says INDEED. BIRGIT, HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE HAS CHILD CARE BEEN FOR YOU?

Birgit says OH, A LOT. I'VE HAD TO USE BABYSITTERS AS OPPOSED TO REGISTERING MY DAUGHTER IN A CHILD CARE CENTRE BECAUSE I COULDN'T AFFORD IT, RIGHT? AND I'VE LOST INCOME A LOT OF TIMES BECAUSE WHEN MY BABYSITTER CALLS IN SICK, I HAVE TO STAY HOME WITH MY DAUGHTER. SO, YEAH, IT'S AN ONGOING ISSUE FOR ME AND FOR MANY OF US ON THE FRONT LINES. WE HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS.

Steve says I THINK YOU MENTIONED EARLIER YOU'RE DOWN TO TWO SHIFTS A WEEK NOW BECAUSE OF THE WHOLE SITUATION YOU'RE IN NOW. CAN YOU MAKE ENDS MEET ON TWO SHIFTS A WEEK?

Birgit says I CAN BARELY SURVIVE. I CAN BARELY JUST PAY MY BILLS AND THAT'S ABOUT IT.

Steve says SO HOW ARE YOU DOING IT?

Birgit says I DON'T KNOW. TWO SHIFTS A WEEK. PRETTY HARD, RIGHT? IT'S A CYCLE.

Steve says SO YOU ARE TAKING ON ADDITIONAL DEBT RIGHT NOW?

Birgit says ABSOLUTELY.

Steve says WHEN THE BABYSITTERS COME IN, DIFFERENT BABYSITTERS DEALING WITH YOUR CHILDREN, I PRESUME YOU FIND THAT A LESS VALUABLE, LESS EFFECTIVE OPTION THAN IF THEY HAD QUALITY, CONSISTENT, DAILY CHILD CARE?

Birgit says OF COURSE. DEFINITELY. THE CHILD WANTS CONSISTENCY TOO. THEY NEED IT.

Steve says FOR SURE. AMANDA, WITH WOMEN OFTEN TAKING ON UNEVEN AMOUNTS OF CHILD CARE AND HOUSEWORK, HOW DID THE PANDEMIC, IN YOUR VIEW, AFFECT ALL OF THAT?

Amanda says YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT WORK HAS CHANGED, AND WITHOUT CHILD CARE, WE CANNOT GET WOMEN BACK TO THE WORKFORCE. LOOK AT THE WOMEN ON THIS PANEL. FULL TIME, MONDAY TO FRIDAY, CENTRE-BASED CARE IS NOT GOING TO SERVE THE SATURDAY NIGHT GROCERY STORE WORKER, THE I CU NURSES WHO NEED OVERNIGHT CARE, THE ENTREPRENEURS WHO I SERVE WHO MIGHT HAVE A FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGN CONTRACT FOR A FEW MONTHS BUT CAN'T POSSIBLY COMMIT TO A FULL YEAR. I THINK... WHAT I'M HOPEFUL ABOUT WITH THE CHILD CARE ANNOUNCEMENT IS WE RECOGNIZE THAT WE NEED TO FUND CHILD CARE. THE NEXT STEP IS TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE TYPES OF CHILD CARE THAT CANADIANS NEED IS FAR MORE DIVERSE THAN WHAT'S AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW, AND THAT MEANS WE NEED TO WORK WITH PRIVATE DAY CARE PROVIDERS LIKE MYSELF, SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS. WE NEED TO ENGAGE WITH A WHOLE RANGE OF DIVERSE STAKEHOLDERS IN ORDER TO OFFER MORE CARE INSTEAD OF TRYING TO FIT A BROKEN SYSTEM.

Steve says THAT'S A GREAT CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE. YOU JUST OPENED UP A CAN OF WORMS ON THERE. BUT THAT'S OKAY...

Amanda says IT COULD BE A WHOLE SHOW.

Steve says INDEED. IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST AND I'M SURE IT WILL BE AGAIN. KALLISHA, WHEN YOU HAVE TO BE AT WORK AND THE SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED, WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH YOUR KIDS?

Kallisha says RIGHT NOW, I'M VERY GRATEFUL FOR MY IN-LAWS BECAUSE THEY'RE RETIRED, SO I ACTUALLY GET A LOT OF HELP WITH THEM. BUT IT'S DEFINITELY DIFFICULT. IT'S DEFINITELY A MATTER OF ASKING FOR HELP, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO WEEKENDS BECAUSE I DEFINITELY STILL HAVE TO WORK WEEKENDS. SO IT'S DEFINITELY JUST A MATTER OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND WHOEVER CAN HELP OUT THAT'S CLOSE TO ME. RIGHT NOW I'M NOT COMFORTABLE EVEN SENDING MY KIDS TO DAY CARE, JUST KNOWING HOW MY CHILDREN ARE, THEY'RE STILL YOUNG AND I WOULDN'T TRUST THEM TO BE SAFE ENOUGH, I GUESS, AND SANITIZING, SO FOR ME IT'S JUST RELYING ON CLOSE FAMILY. AND IF NOT, AGAIN, IT'S ME CALLING IN TO WORK BECAUSE MY KIDS COME FIRST.

Steve says THE KIDS ARE HOW OLD?

Kallisha says I HAVE A 10-YEAR-OLD AND ONE THAT'S ABOUT TO BE 2.

Steve says 10 AND ABOUT TO BE 2. OH, MY GOODNESS. YOUR IN-LAWS ARE NOT GOING TO LIKE ME ASKING THIS QUESTION, BUT TOUGH LUCK. HOW OLD ARE THEY?

Kallisha says ONE OF THEM IS IN THEIR EARLY 70s AND THE OTHER IN THEIR LATE 60s.

Steve says HOW DO THEY KEEP UP WITH A 10-YEAR-OLD AND AN ALMOST 2-YEAR-OLD?

Kallisha says IT'S A LOT. YOU KNOW, LIKE EVERY DAY, IT'S DIFFERENT COMPLAINTS OR DIFFERENT ISSUES OR THE TALKING BACK FROM THE OLDER ONE OR TOO MUCH ENERGY FROM THE YOUNGER ONE. SO IT'S ALWAYS A JUGGLING MATCH AND TRYING TO GIVE THEM A COUPLE DAYS OFF, IF I CAN. I'LL USE MY OTHER GRANDMOTHER AND SHE IS, AGAIN, EARLY 70s TOO. I'M JUST RELYING ON ALL THE OLDER PEOPLE IN MY FAMILY RIGHT NOW THAT ARE RETIRED.

Steve says AMANDA, LET ME JUST ASK YOU A QUICK QUESTION ABOUT ONLINE LEARNING. HOW IS THAT WORKING OUT FOR YOU?

Amanda says I WOULD PULL MY KIDS TODAY... I CONSIDER EVERY DAY. MY SON IS 4. HE'S IN JUNIOR KINDERGARTEN. HE'S EXPECTED TO SIT IN FRONT OF A LAPTOP AND NAVIGATE TABS AND SWITCHING BETWEEN A VIDEO TO A GROUP CHAT TO MUTE, TO UNMUTE. I MEAN, THE NUMBER OF TIMES HE SHUT THE SCREEN AND WALKED AWAY AND I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF A CALL LIKE THIS, THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT. YOU KNOW? I FIND FOR WORKING WOMEN IN PARTICULAR LIKE ME WHO IS HOME ALONE WITH MY CHILDREN ALL DAY, TRYING TO KEEP MY BUSINESS ALIVE, THE EXPECTATIONS ON US TO SIT BESIDE OUR KIDS, GUIDE THEM IN THEIR LEARNING, SUPPORT THEIR EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, KEEP THEM FED... THEY CONSTANTLY KEEP NEEDING TO BE FED EVERY DAY?

Steve says THEY'RE LIKE THAT, AREN'T THEY?

Amanda says THEY KEEP WANTING MORE MEALS, YOU KNOW? I REALLY CAN'T WAIT TO GET BACK TO SOME VERSION OF NORMAL, ONE THAT BETTER SUPPORTS WOMEN.

Steve says KALLISHA, HOW ABOUT YOU FOR THE ONLINE LEARNING AND YOUR KIDS?

Kallisha says OH, GOSH. IT'S DEFINITELY BEEN SUCH A CHALLENGE IN MY HOUSEHOLD. IT'S HARD FOR ME TO COME IN FROM WORK AND I ALSO COMMUTE, SO I'M COMING IN LIKE AN HOUR OUT OF MY WAY TO GO TO WORK, TO AND FROM. SO BY THE TIME I COME HOME IN THE EVENINGS TO DOUBLE CHECK ALL THE ASSIGNMENTS THAT HAVEN'T BEEN TURNED IN AND YOU ASK THE QUESTION, OH, WE DON'T HAVE TO TURN IT IN, WE JUST HAVE TO SHOW IT. IT'S SO HARD TO BE ON TOP OF THEIR SCHOOLWORK AND GOING TO WORK. EVEN WHEN I HAD THE TIME OFF AND I WAS HOME WITH THEM AT THE BEGINNING WITH THIS, IT WAS STILL JUST SUCH A CHALLENGE FOR ME BECAUSE WE'RE ALMOST LIKE SUPPLY TEACHERS WITHOUT THE PAY.

Steve says MM-HMM. RIGHT. LAUREN, LET ME ASK YOU TO WRAP IT UP FOR US AND PUT A BOW ON IT. WE'VE HEARD THIS EXPRESSION SO MANY TIMES: BUILD BACK BETTER. AS WE CONSIDER HOW TO REBUILD OUR SOCIETY BETTER, THAT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT SOME OF THESE REALITIES WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT TONIGHT, WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

Lauren says YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN WRITING AND REPORTING ON WOMEN'S ISSUES AND WOMEN'S CHALLENGES FOR MY WHOLE CAREER. AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, THIS IDEA OF RETURNING TO NORMAL... I DON'T LIKE IT BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE US TO ENVISION A WAY TO BUILD BETTER AND TO BUILD A BLUEPRINT THAT PUTS WOMEN FIRST AND PUTS OUR MOST VULNERABLE FIRST. AND I THINK THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS ONLY UNDERSCORED HOW ESSENTIAL IT IS THAT WE DO THAT GOING FORWARD IF WE WANT A SOCIETY IN WHICH WOMEN SUCCEED AND WHY WOULDN'T WE?

The caption changes to "Produced by: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas."

Steve says WELL SAID. LAUREN MCKEON, AMANDA MUNDAY, KALLISHA HOYES, BIRGIT UMAIGBA, IT IS REALLY GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US TONIGHT AND TELL US WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON IN YOUR LIVES THE LAST 14 MONTHS. GODSPEED GOING FORWARD.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

The guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: A Pandemic Upending Women's Lives