Métis PhD student and businesswoman appointed to new federal Task Force on Women in the Economy

Raylene Whitford brings unique experience to national group advising Canadian government on equitable economic recovery from a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting women.


Raylene Whitford, a Métis businesswoman and PhD student at the U of A, has been appointed to the new federal Task Force on Women in the Economy. Whitford brings her unique professional and personal experiences to the group, created to advise the Canadian government on a feminist approach to spurring equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Supplied)

Métis PhD student and businesswoman Raylene Whitford has been appointed to the new federal Task Force on Women in the Economy, where she is working alongside 17 other women from across the country to advise the government on a pathway to a national feminist economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

The task force was announced on March 8, International Women’s Day, and is co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Minister of Middle Class Prosperity Mona Fortier. 

“The setup of this group is very non-traditional,” said Whitford, a PhD student in the Faculty of Native Studies and the Alberta School of Business, and founder of Canative Energy. “They've brought together an amazing cross-section of women from different industries and experiences. It’s wonderful to be a part of and contribute to this.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unequal impact on Canadians, particularly women. Mothers, women in low-income jobs, essential workers and racialized women have experienced steeper losses in jobs, hours and wages, have been slower to return to work and have lost many of the hard-won gains toward a more equal economy.

Since February 2020, more than 80,000 women aged 15 and older have left the labour force, compared with about 25,000 men.

“Over the past year we have seen the alarming impact of this pandemic on women’s economic participation … Canada’s future prosperity and competitiveness depend on the ability of women to participate equally—and fully—in our workforce,” said Freeland.

Over the next year, the group will harness ideas from a diverse group of experts from different sectors of the economy to advise the government on a feminist, intersectional action plan that addresses issues of gender equality in the wake of the pandemic.

“This task force is all women focusing on a feminist recovery, and that’s really special,” Whitford noted. “Most of the spaces I’ve worked have been very male-dominated, so I have rarely had the opportunity to join a group of professional women of various backgrounds and specialities, and they're able to speak openly and honestly with each other.”

Each group member brings their own expertise to the committee, with Whitford bringing both her professional and personal experience with her.

“I am the only committee member with an international background in finance, the only one from oil and gas. However, I see my primary role as being an advocate for Indigenous women, as I understand the issues that are faced at the community level.”