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Posted by on Nov 27, 2011 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Issues affecting newcomer women

The following article appears in the Winter 2011 issue of Powerful Women. Due to lack of space there was not room to include the accompanying Addendum, so with the permission of the author Lin Buxton, Business Professional Women (BPW), the article is being published here in its entirety, along with the Addendum which contains some useful links.

Newcomer women represent 12 percent of Waterloo Region residents (2006 Census). The total newcomer population is expected to be 30 percent by 20311. Women, after being uprooted, need to adapt plus face the stress of dealing with leaving family and loved ones behind. As a welcoming community, we can ease the transition. The following are only some of the issues challenging newcomer women.

Stereotyping and Racism

Newcomers contribute to our economy and society by working hard, paying taxes, volunteering and raising families, but stereotypes and prejudice hinder their potential for success. Statements such as ?They are here to do the dirty work that Canadians don?t want to do? hamper newcomers and limit their contribution to society. Fact: newcomers are often forced to take jobs they are overqualified for due to inadequate systems in place to recognize credentials and experience.

Pay Equity

Newcomer women, regardless of education, earn less than Canadian women, and Canadian women, on average, earn less than 80% of their male counterparts.
Global trafficking of women by abduction, fraud, deception and violence results in immigration, both legal and illegal, robbing them of their fundamental rights. Alternatively, some women are so desperate to leave conditions such as poverty, political persecution or war, that they immigrate as mail-order brides or domestic live-in caregivers. Women in both situations are especially vulnerable to abuse and violence.


Language barriers can restrict access in critical areas like employment, housing, healthcare and training. Newcomer women are less likely than men to have official language knowledge, increasing vulnerability during settlement.

Health Risks

Language and cultural barriers can prevent some women from accessing health services. Some suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to experiencing
war, rape, torture and other traumas.
Emotional and mental health risks are a very real concern.

Culture Shock

Adapting to a new culture is stressful. Different cultures and belief systems can be intimidating for women trying to maintain their own customs that are different from their new community.

What you can do:

Confront racist stereotypes. Educate and correct beliefs and assumptions.
Invite a local immigrant/refugee organization to speak about their experiences.
Support organizations that advocate for women?s rights.


The Welcoming Communities Initiative (WCI):
?Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs):
Waterloo Region Newcomers and Alumae club:
[1] The term Newcomer [1]refers to people who were born outside of Canada. The terms ?Immigrant? and ?Refugee ? have negative connotations.? A newcomer is a person who has recently arrived, within 3-5 years; Immigrant status refers to someone who left their country or origin to become a citizen in the new country, an undocumented immigrant is someone whose status is unknown or unofficial. Refugee status refers to people who are escaping and need protection in a new country.?
[1] Local Immigration Partnership Final Report, 2010.