Conscripted to Care
With the vast majority of healthcare and social workers identifying as women, the vanguard of the COVID-19 response was distinctly gendered. In Conscripted to Care Julia Smith introduces us to the women who faced the worst effects of the pandemic and the inequities it exposed. Through clear prose and fascinating critical analysis, she documents their largely unseen contributions and sacrifices, both professional and domestic.
Drawing on interviews and focus groups with nearly two hundred women from a range of backgrounds and occupations, Smith reveals how structural inequality put women on the frontlines of the pandemic response, yet with inadequate resources and little voice in decision-making. Women shouldered not only the triple burden of paid work, unpaid care, and mental load, but also increased emotional labour. While some women were categorized as “essential,” others remained in the shadows. All faced unsustainable workloads, moral distress, and burnout while continuing to demand better services for those in their care.
An analysis of Canada’s COVID-19 response from the perspective of those who staffed it, Conscripted to Care presents crucial lessons for those interested in public health and how it relates to gender and economic equality, as well as public policy.