How advisors can help women overcome pandemic challenges

By Michelle Schriver | March 5, 2021 | Last updated on December 19, 2023
3 min read
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The pandemic has disproportionately affected working women, research suggests. Advisors can help women navigate the financial fallout by tailoring planning and providing education that meets women’s needs.

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“Advisors have a great opportunity to connect and make an impact with women clients as it relates to the challenges of the pandemic,” said Carissa Lucreziano, vice-president at CIBC Financial Planning and Advice, in an interview.

She highlighted the challenge women face as jobs are lost during Covid-19.

“The pandemic has many Canadian women concerned about job security and believing their career progression could have been halted or taken a backseat,” Lucreziano said.

Nearly 100,000 women age 20 and older have left the job market since February 2020, compared with fewer than 10,000 men in the same age group, an RBC report said last week. Further, jobless rates for women have been higher among those who are visible minorities, the report said.

Job loss creates or adds to financial stress. Six in 10 Canadian women (62%) worry about finances, a CIBC poll conducted last month found. Women’s top financial worries were running out of money in retirement (65% of respondents) and insufficient emergency funds (46%).

Whether or not your client has lost a job during the pandemic, Lucreziano suggested alleviating stress by providing advice on building a safety net: obtaining a line of credit or protections like creditor insurance, job loss insurance, disability insurance or life insurance. If possible, clients can also allocate surplus cash flow to an emergency fund.

If clients say they’re already protected from job loss, advisors may want to encourage them to assess their options to flag potential gaps, Lucreziano said.

A factor complicating employment is caregiving.

Responsibilities for children are significantly higher for women than men in most Canadian households, a CIBC poll conducted in January found.

Across 16 OECD countries, the time women spent on unpaid child care increased an average of 5.2 hours per week during Covid-19, compared to a 3.5-hour increase for men, a UN Women study found (data from October 2020 were used).

Again, the caregiving gap can be greater among women who are visible minorities. For example, Black mothers with children under six have been less likely to participate in the labour force during the pandemic compared to non-minority mothers, StatsCan found.

Advisors can help clients who’ve put their careers on hold for caregiving by re-evaluating their cash flows and the impact to their financial situations, Lucreziano said.

“Goals may need to be reprioritized or adjusted in scope or time horizon in order to align with the change in income, even if it is temporary,” she said.

The CIBC poll on household responsibilities found that Canadians lacked knowledge on investing and retirement planning, and felt more confident about budgeting, saving and debt management.

To help close that educational gap, Lucreziano suggested advisors build awareness and knowledge by asking discovery questions such as: What are your sources of income each month? How do you save? How do you picture retirement and at what age? How will your life change in retirement?

Clients can gain additional clarity if advisors use visuals and financial tools like calculators, she said. Advisors can also explore with clients various retirement scenarios based on different income levels.

“When [clients] can visually see how they’re tracking toward their goals of retirement and investing, it really puts things into perspective,” Lucreziano said.

This article is part of the AdvisorToGo program, powered by CIBC. It was written without input from the sponsor.

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Michelle Schriver

Michelle is’s managing editor. She has worked with the team since 2015 and been recognized by the National Magazine Awards and SABEW for her reporting. Email her at