Inuit women working in resource industry at economic disadvantage
despite being primary providers for many large households in Inuit Nunangat
Today, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada released the results of a ground-breaking research study examining Inuit women’s economic security and prosperity as well as experiences of sexual violence and harassment while working in the resource extraction industry.
The survey found more than half of the Inuit women surveyed experienced repeated events of sexual harassment and violence while working in the historically male-dominated mining industry. The most common incidents involved sexual comments, jokes, unwanted touching and emotional abuse.
Results of the investigation also found that Inuit women are often supporting large households in Inuit Nunangat on the most meagre salaries in the resource extraction industry. Although the survey did not specifically identify the employee positions of Inuit women, it revealed that these women are supporting families on salaries much lower than both Inuit and non-Inuit men, as well as non-Inuit women.
“This study underscores the urgent need to improve conditions to allow Inuit women to safely participate and enjoy the many benefits of the resource extraction industry in the North,” said Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, which commissioned the study with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).
The report, Addressing Inuit Women’s Economic Security and Prosperity in the Resource Extraction Industry, identifies gaps and opportunities for Inuit women in the resource sector, as well as illuminates the reality of workplace sexual violence and harassment directed at female Inuit employees.
The research results indicate that although Inuit women generally feel safe in remote workplace camps, many experience sexual harassment and violence while performing their duties.
The gendered division of labour common in the resource extraction industry continues to place women – particularly Inuit women – in job areas such as human resources, janitorial work and food services. Positions related to housekeeping and kitchen duties can expose women to increased risks of violence and harassment as the work occurs in private areas of the camps, such as bedrooms and bathrooms.
In addition, the research revealed that incidents of workplace sexual harassment and violence are often under-reported by Inuit women for fear of job loss, shame, stigma or trepidation about reliving the humiliation.
As part of the study, participants were asked what could be done to improve the experience of Inuit women working in the industry. Chief among their recommendations is the need for specific sexual harassment