Panel: Unequal Women in BC and the Path to Recovery

Date: April 1, 6-7:30 pm

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International Women’s Day may have passed, but the struggle for gender equality hasn’t. 2020 saw a stark rise in layoffs and firings of women across British Columbia as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the systemic inequities facing women and people of colour. Women in BC’s hotel industry were hit especially hard, with almost 95% of the workforce being laid off. As we chart the path to recovery in 2021, how can we ensure that women return to their pre-pandemic jobs and livelihoods? For industries where women of colour make up the majority, such as tourism and hospitality, what is our role as activists and community members to support laid-off and fired workers?

Join us for an exciting panel on these questions and more! UNITE HERE Local 40 will be facilitating a discussion around the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on working women, particularly racialized women in the hotel industry. We will also discuss what a more just and equitable future would look like for women.

Jerty Fernandez Gaa started working at Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as a public area attendant in 2009, maintaining public spaces such as hallways, banquet rooms, and the lobby. She was fired in late July 2020 because her hotel refused to wait until business resumed to bring her back to her job. Jerty loves working at Pan Pacific because she gets to meet people from around the world. She was devastated when she was fired and is fighting to get her job back. Jerty is also a mother of four and has lived in Canada for almost 16 years.

Rajani Tadaka is a hotel worker who has worked in the hospitality industry for seven years. Her passion is providing excellent customer service. She worked at Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as a room attendant for five years, cleaning rooms before she was fired in 2020 just because of the pandemic. She wants to be able to return to her job at the hotel when business comes back. Rajani is a mother of two daughters who are attending university and she enjoys gardening in her spare time. 

Laura Cameron worked at Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond as a 2nd cook for 19 years, raising her kids on the job. She is a proud member of the transition team that saw the Delta hotel rebranded into what is today known as Pacific Gateway (PGH), and considers the workers there her second family. Laura spent her career at PGH in its three kitchens, cooking meals for guests. Instead of recalling workers back to their jobs, PGH fired her and other highly skilled staff in 2021. She is fighting to get her job back and believes that starting from the bottom with unskilled workers and re-training them will be time consuming and not cost-effective in the long run.

Iglika Ivanova is a Senior Economist and Public Interest Researcher at the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She brings over a decade of experience in social and economic policy research on the key challenges of our time, and is particularly interested in exploring the potential for governments at all levels to actively foster a more just, inclusive and sustainable economy. Iglika’s community involvement on boards, in coalitions and in other advisory roles is often in service of promoting equity and empowering women and other marginalized people.

Nadine Nakagawa (she/her) was elected to New Westminster City Council in 2018. Prior to being elected,  Nadine worked on issues relating to housing, public spaces, reconciliation, public engagement, and childcare. For her work in the community, Nadine was named the 2017 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce Platinum Awards. She co-owns a consulting business called Ablaze Services and has a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. When not working on community projects, Nadine prances with delight towards patches of wildflowers, is fond of skirts and dresses that encourage twirling, and can be found hugging trees and embracing whimsy. 

She was a 2021 finalist for the BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award for the Breaking Barriers Award and is co-founder of the Feminist Campaign School. 

This event will also be livestreamed on Facebook. We encourage you to register via Zoom for a more interactive experience and to be able to ask questions through the chat.