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Abortion rights supporters protest against the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to end federal abortion rights protections outside the First Street U.S. Courthouse on June 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last week has had an impact that extends far beyond the country’s own borders. The loss of constitutional protection for abortion in the U.S. will have social, economic and emotional repercussions here in Canada, says Jennifer Reynolds.

Ms. Reynolds, CEO of Women Corporate Directors Foundation and former president and CEO of Toronto Finance International, says the news of the landmark decision has been “disturbing.” For many people, it brings up the question of whether or not this could happen in Canada – a question even her fifteen-year-old daughter has worried over.

“The U.S. is an influential market,” she says. “It’s just depressing to see this happening, to see women’s rights rolled back. It’s such an uphill battle, making progress on gender equality in the economy.”

Ms. Reynolds, who has 25 years of experience in the financial services sector, says the overturning of Roe v. Wade will have direct economic impact in the U.S. Women whose health is compromised or who are “forced to have children they’re not ready for” will face significant consequences, limiting their career options and hindering their financial futures.

“Women falling back economically, as well as from a health perspective – that ripples into the economy,” she says. And while the decision doesn’t affect the rights of those in Canada directly, Ms. Reynolds says the overturning of Roe v. Wade can potentially have a negative impact on mental health in the workplace.

“I do think there are mental health repercussions of seeing this happen in the country next door,” she says.

As the shock waves from the Supreme Court decision are felt worldwide, Ms. Reynolds stresses a need for Canadian institutions and workplaces to establish a sense of reassurance.

“[We] need to have leaders in the economy speak out and make sure that women know that it’s very different here. And that hopefully that will calm people and give us reassurance that we’re never going to face what’s happening in the U.S.,” she says.

An assault on bodily autonomy

Samra Zafar is an advocate for gender equity, inclusion and human rights who penned the book A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose. She says that the overturning of Roe v. Wade marks the “culmination” of a cultural shift that doesn’t stop at the U.S. border.

“What’s been happening for a very long time down south, and trickling over here in Canada, is the rise of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, white supremacy – the rise of this resistance to progress,” she says.

In recent years, the advent of social media has helped people find “echo chambers of validation,” Ms. Zafar says. She cites the 2019 Toronto van attack, in which the attacker’s motivations were linked to online incel ideologies and misogyny.

“If we are going to sit here north of the border and think that we are immune to it, I think we’re sadly mistaken, because there is a rise here,” Ms. Zafar says. “I’m scared for my daughters. I’m nervous [that] there is a faction of society here in Canada who have those kinds of beliefs.”

While abortion rights remain intact in Canada, the decision has been disquieting for anyone who can get pregnant, she says. “We feel like we’re backtracking,” she says. And for people experiencing the mental health consequences of this issue, “that’s going to spill over into the workplace,” she adds.

How Canadian employers can step up

Like Ms. Reynolds, Ms. Zafar stresses the need for visible and public support from organizations. “I think it’s important to be bold and be loud,” she says.

She notes that many friends and colleagues in the LBGTQ+ community have been alarmed by the decision on Roe v. Wade. “What if same sex marriage is now criminalized? What else is going to happen?” she says. “I think at this point, it’s important for workplaces to be as vocal as possible about their commitment to women [and] their commitment to diversity and equality.”

Ms. Zafar notes that the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests against police brutality spurred many organizations to speak out.

“There were companies who are talking about these [issues] in ways that never talked about before,” she says. “A lot of companies embarked on EDI journeys and making sure that they’re bringing in consultants to look at all their policies, and the work continues. I think that same level of dedication and commitment is required [now].”


Ask Women and Work

Have a question about your work life? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

Question: I’m in the market for a new job but not sure where to start. I’ve been at my current position for over 10 years and never really had to apply for a position before. Do I need a resume or will LinkedIn do? Is a cover letter still a thing? And should I be snazzing up my LinkedIn profile with bells and whistles (like video) like I see on other profiles?

We asked job search strategist and career consultant Sarah Anderson of Joyful Hire in Toronto to field this one:

While the job search landscape has changed in many ways, a resume is still a crucial piece of job searching because it is often the first impression you make to an employer. A crisp, clean and impactful resume will help you be noticed in a crowd of competitive applicants.

The goal of your resume is not to show potential employers what your role consisted of in past work experiences. The goal is to showcase what makes you valuable by listing things such as the amount of revenue you were able to generate, how you improved internal processes, projects you’ve initiated or contributed to, and most importantly, your enthusiasm and passion for the role to which you’re applying. A tailored resume will show the prospective employer that you not only can handle the job, but that you are an asset.

Cover letters are still commonly used in job searching, though they may not always be a requirement of the application process. Although I don’t feel cover letters are always necessary, they provide job seekers an opportunity to directly appeal to the person reviewing your application. Remember that the purpose behind a cover letter is to tell your prospective employer why you are qualified for the job – it is a narrative extension of your resume, not a repetition of it. Similar to a sales pitch, you’re marketing your skills and experiences through the use of storytelling.

Great cover letters address why you want the job, why you want to work at this particular organization, and why you feel like you are the right person for the job based on your professional history and skill set. They can be an effective way to align yourself with an organization and requirements of the job, while giving the reader a glimpse into your personality. Providing context to who you are, in addition to your experiences, helps the reader understand your career path.

That being said, I do recommend utilizing a two-pronged approach to job searching that includes simultaneously applying to job opportunities and networking. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful career-boosting platforms on the market. It’s an incredible tool that can help you stay up to date on industry news, enhance your professional brand, and increase your visibility to support effective networking. Over 90 per cent of recruiters utilize LinkedIn, so a strong and robust profile is important, but it’s equally important to remain active and maintain relationships.

Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback on the series? Email us at GWC@globeandmail.com.