Group to help immigrant women questioned over billboard with image of ‘young man’

Community member Pat Papadeas is questioning a local organization that supports immigrant women over one of its billboards that features a ‘young man’ as she doesn’t feel it best represents the demographic the organization is trying to break barriers for. 

Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women (W5) is a non-profit organization that services newcomers to Canada and assists them in settling in and finding employment. Of W5’s three billboards around the city, it says two feature women and one shows a man. But the billboard with the man has struck some people as out of line with the organization’s mission statement and role in the community. 

“Visually, that’s not I think what would seem to make a lot of sense on that billboard,” said Papadeas, a woman’s advocate. “I do not see in that photograph Windsor women working with immigrant women, that does not speak to me.” 

Papadeas also noted that underneath the organization’s name on the billboard, it says “breaking barriers.” 

But program manager for W5’s employment services and youth community connections Delia Pelger said the organization is not only geared toward women, despite its name. 

“Our mission statement is to serve immigrant women and their families,” she said, adding that currently 25 per cent of their clients are male. 

“We use those billboards to promote our employment services, so employment services are open to female and male, so for that reason … we wanted to make sure we had representation of females and males.” 

Additionally, Pelger said there’s no reason for people to believe that the man on the billboard is not an immigrant, as there’s no way one to physically define a newcomer. 

Another billboard from W5 in Windsor. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

National decrease in employment rate for immigrant women

Yet, Papdeas said, given the times — with a pandemic that has disproportionately pushed all women out of the workforce — it seems that women need the attention now more than ever. 

“We put this in context of all times, in this time of the pandemic and I think that it’s probably not a stretch to say that we’re rolling back on the gains we have made, generally speaking, for women in the last year,” she said. 

“We know that women are facing, disproportionately, the struggles and stresses that are evolved in the workforce, those that continue to be in the workforce.” 

And data shows that for immigrant women who immigrated to Canada within the last five years, overall employment decreased since February 2020 — with the unemployment rate currently at 14.4 per cent. 

Pat Papadeas, women’s advocate, says the image on the billboard was ‘surprising’ to her given what she knows of the organization and its mission statement. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Locally, the Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor (WEST), an employment organization that has been working to help immigrant women find employment of their choosing, told CBC News last week that it’s been hard trying to help women get jobs as many were laid off. 

Pelger said the organization welcomes these comments, but it also didn’t see any issue with the image chosen because it does serve men and wants more people to be aware of the services it offers. 

“There were not initially many concerns, but now that we see that the community it’s reacting to those kinds of things perhaps we’re going to more aware and we’re going to pay more attention to those things,” Pelger said. 

“I do appreciate when people bring those issues up and they will make us perhaps be more careful in the future when we pick up those images.” 

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