When the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic, on March 11, 2020, it also encouraged world governments to take strong action to limit and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Alberta, along with other provinces, announced a public health emergency shortly thereafter. As a consequence of health measures that were brought into force at the time, nonessential businesses were shuttered, schools implemented emergency online remote teaching, child care centres and recreation facilities were closed, and public and private gatherings were limited. The impact of these measures on the service sector was especially severe and, because women tend to be disproportionately employed in service-related occupations, the burden fell disproportionately upon women.
In particular, the economic recession caused by the pandemic has led to the loss of jobs for many Albertans and Canadians, but women have been much slower to return to the labour market. The disproportionate impact on women, particularly those living at the intersections of gender, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is coined the “She-cession” by economists such as Armine Yalnizyan.
Given the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian women generally, and on those in the kindergarten to Grade 12 education sector in particular, the Women in Leadership Committee of the Alberta Teachers’ Association turned its attention in September 2020 to documenting the experience of women teachers and school leaders during the pandemic period. Given that the teaching profession is primarily female, at 74 per cent of the Alberta teaching profession (Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund 2017), a systemic examination of the lived experience of Alberta teachers and school leaders who have caregiving responsibilities became a clear priority. Consequently, the Association embarked on a research project to explore the lived experiences of women teachers and school leaders. A qualitive methodology was adopted for this study, as it was hoped that the endeavour would provide rich description of the lives of women teachers and school leaders during COVID-19 so that meaningful supports might be identified.