Introduction to GBA+

Assumptions at work

Let’s briefly examine the design and implementation of an immigrant integration program that focuses on integrating refugees into the workforce, with the same approach used for all refugees, regardless of gender or culture.

Consider a woman who immigrates to Canada with her husband and children as government-sponsored refugees. Before arriving as a refugee family, her husband was the “breadwinner” of the family. He has had difficulty finding work in Canada, while she has started a successful business and is now financially supporting the family.

The situation might create tension in the family. The role reversal creates financial independence for the woman, which may be quite different for the family. This may affect the male members of the family, both positively and negatively, depending on the family. Some may become isolated, sad, depressed, and lonely. Others may embrace new roles, and see opportunities for their daughters.

What assumptions do we have about the roles of men and women in relation to participation in the workforce? Have the potential cultural implications of role reversal been considered in the design and implementation of the integration program? What might be done to help mitigate the tension in the family, and to ensure increased work force participation for both men and women in the family?

The assumptions we make as individuals can affect both our work and the policies we develop as public servants by unintentionally privileging or disadvantaging different groups.

In developing policies and programs, it is critical that we not only recognize our biases and assumptions but also understand and challenge them.