issues and experts

COVID-19 has highlighted gender inequality, SFU event looks at what can be done

November 18, 2020

Research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected the mental wellbeing of women more than men. Women in Canada, and around the world, are reporting higher levels of anxiety, stress and related challenges compared to men. Meanwhile, less is known about the experiences of transgender, non-binary and queer identifying individuals, who are already more likely to experience barriers in accessing health care and other services.

To better understand these issues and to find solutions to these inequalities, SFU Public Square is hosting a virtual event Thursday, Nov. 19 called “Mental Wellness & COVID-19: What’s Gender Got To Do With It? ” The event will be moderated by Simon Fraser University researchers Julia Smith and Kelley Lee, who are co-leading the international Gender and COVID-19 Project.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Smith has been conducting in-depth interviews with essential workers, parents and those socio-economically affected by the COVID-19 response. Preliminary findings have found that the pandemic is taking a particular toll on the mental wellbeing of women at home, in the childcare industry and on the frontlines as healthcare workers. 

“It’s not surprising that there are gender disparities related to mental wellness during the pandemic,” said Smith. “For example, women are doing the majority of childcare and taking care of their family, and also make up the majority of healthcare workers – of course they are anxious. 

“But that doesn’t mean these disparities are inevitable. By learning more about how gender inequities contribute to stress and anxiety, we can develop responses to improve mental wellness. For example, what if – in addition to improving mental health services - we introduced more flexible work arrangements, encourage men to take on more care work or added more paid sick days?”

Smith and Lee will moderate speakers from the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, BC Women’s Health Foundation, Health Initiative for Men, Vancouver Women’s Health Collective and Trans Care BC. They’ll talk about how the pandemic has affected the people they work with and discuss what’s needed to provide better health outcomes for everyone.

SFU Public Square online event
Mental Wellness & COVID-19: What’s Gender Got To Do With It?
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. PST
Event details and free registration can be found here


Dr. Julia Smith, University Research Associate, Gender and COVID-19 Project, Faculty of Health Sciences 
604.837.4285 | 


Matt Kieltyka,  SFU Communications & Marketing 
236.880.2187 |

Simon Fraser University 
Communications & Marketing | SFU Media Experts Directory 


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