Lakehead University researchers helping newcomer women overcome economic shock caused by COVID-19

April 7, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

A team of Lakehead University researchers is interviewing and surveying newcomer women in Northwestern Ontario to determine how they can overcome the economic shock caused by COVID-19.

Dr. Kathy Sanderson, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration, and her team, including Dr. Claudio Pousa, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration, and Master’s students/graduates, are receiving $193,014 from the Future Skills Centre.

The research team will survey 400 women – half of whom will be newcomers. These women will reside in Northwestern Ontario, from Wawa to the Manitoba border, and the team will interview and survey them over the next two years.

At the end of March, Dr. Sanderson wrapped up a project funded by the Ministry of Labour’s Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund called Employing New Immigrants: Community and Organizational Welcoming in Northwestern Ontario.

Dr. Sanderson said she is excited to continue researching the experiences of newcomers on this new project, called Resilience of Newcomer Women in Northwestern Ontario: Overcoming Covid-19 Economic Shock, which will begin in early April.

Photo of Dr. Kathy Sanderson

“Newcomers are a vital part of our labour pool and many are underemployed,” Dr. Sanderson said.

“This project will allow us to determine new strategies for increasing the participation of new immigrant women in Northwestern Ontario.”

Newcomer women were already severely disadvantaged regarding employment, and COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation, she said.  Many newcomer women work in health care, personal care services, and retail: areas of high demand during the pandemic.  This comparative, longitudinal study in Northwestern Ontario will allow the research team to reconceptualize how employment supports are delivered.

Dr. Sanderson and her team are doing this project as part of Lakehead’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research (CIER).

“At CIER, we recognize that immigration is crucial to the viability of our region, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that newcomer women are experiencing when seeking participation in the regional labour market,” said Dr. Michael S. Dohan, Director, CIER, at Lakehead University.

“We congratulate Dr. Sanderson on her recent grant to assist her and her team in conducting this important community-based research,” Dr. Dohan added.

This research partnership aims to build knowledge and provide recommendations for skills innovation, recovery, and new ways forward for newcomer women in the face of economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre (FSC), said creating a research partnership that benefits newcomer women in Northwestern Ontario is a perfect example of programs FSC is investing in to build an inclusive workforce of the future that leaves no-one behind.

“Newcomer women will benefit from this partnership, which aims to build knowledge and provide recommendations for skills innovation, recovery, and new ways forward for this population that was hit hard by the pandemic,” Barata said.

“This project will identify opportunities and barriers they face and examine how employment support is delivered. This is just one of the exciting shock-proofing projects that FSC is investing in to build a future playbook for shared prosperity, and help Canadian workers and businesses seize opportunities in our future economy.”    

Led by Lakehead University in Thunder Bay – in partnership with immigration and economic experts – this project will examine both the rural and urban effects of COVID-19 on newcomer women. The research team will produce meaningful results that can be applied across the country, including identifying opportunities and barriers to full labour participation by newcomer women in the wake of COVID-19.

“Lakehead University appreciates the support from the Future Skills Centre for this research project,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“The outcomes that are anticipated from this study should positively contribute to strategies for better inclusivity of new immigrants to Northwestern Ontario."

The project will make recommendations related to increasing labour participation that will be shared with newcomers, decision makers and through traditional academic outlets. 

The project, ‘Resilience of Newcomer Women in Northwestern Ontario: Overcoming Covid-19 Economic Shock’, is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.


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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 98th among 766 universities from around the world in THE's 2020 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit


The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. As a pan-Canadian community, the Centre collaborates to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead. The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada's Future Skills Program.