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Removing Barriers and Unleashing Potential

Phyllis Muchoki
December 13, 2023
Categories: Racial Equity 

Canada's strength lies in its rich diversity, with a significant portion of the population having newcomer roots spanning multiple generations. Toronto also is known as one of the most diverse cities in the world with over 230 different nationalities calling the city home. Notably, a significant number of newcomer women in Canada are from countries such as India, Pakistan, France, China, the Philippines and Nigeria. They bring vast expertise in sought-after professions including information technology, healthcare, engineering, finance, and more. However, these diverse groups of highly educated newcomer women face challenges as they integrate into their desired careers.

Newcomer women, including refugees from conflict-affected nations, often encounter difficulties when getting their foreign qualifications recognized. The complex and time-consuming credential recognition procedures in host countries, like Canada, can be overwhelming, primarily because these women have to navigate unfamiliar bureaucratic systems.

Immigrant women have made invaluable contributions to Canada's social fabric, economic growth, and multicultural identity. While it is true that some very educated newcomer women workers may initially find employment in sectors such as factory work, janitorial/custodial services, or within the healthcare system and nursing homes as Personal support workers (PSWs), the experiences, and career paths of newcomer women workers are diverse. This blog offers suggestions to assist newcomer women on their often-difficult career path.

Streamlining the assessments and acknowledgment of international credentials would eliminate unnecessary obstacles to employment, expedite career entry for women, and benefit many sectors that require a greater workforce.

Mentorship programs can also be a helpful tool in connecting newcomer women with seasoned professionals in their respective fields. Mentors can offer invaluable guidance, industry insights, and networking opportunities. Such initiatives open doors to the Canadian job market and can provide insight into Canadian work cultures and contexts.

Offering career-bridging programs and internship opportunities for newcomer women who are seeking to enter the local workforce would equipt them with an opportunity to gain valuable first-hand Canadian work experience, exposure to local work environments, and practical training and networking opportunities.

Enhancing language skills is crucial for effective communication in workplaces. Specialized language training programs that are tailored to the professional contexts of newcomer women can not only enhance their language proficiency in field-specific terminology, but also boost confidence, facilitate effective workplace communication, and enhance prospects for securing higher-level positions.

Educating employers about the unique skills, experiences, and contributions of professional newcomer women is crucial. Creating awareness campaigns and resources for employers can help combat biases while promoting diversity and inclusion. Highlighting the value of diverse talent helps employers to recognize and leverage the strengths of newcomer women.

Once newcomers have arrived in Canada, having access to government support through funded programs and education grants such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is exceedingly helpful for supporting newcomer women. Further policy initiatives that support refugees such as shelters, food and free healthcare are essential in setting newcomer women up for success. Investing in organizations and initiatives, like YWCA Toronto, that focus on employment assistance, mentorship, and skills training tailored to the needs of newcomer women also strengthens their integration into the workforce. The more support newcomer women have in all aspects of life, the greater their likelihood of career success.

Lastly, partnerships between government bodies, industry stakeholders, and newcomer-serving organizations are key. Sharing resources, expertise, and best practices fosters a comprehensive and supportive ecosystem that addresses the unique challenges professional newcomer women encounter.

Supporting a better career integration of highly educated newcomer women is an investment in Canada's future. By implementing these measures, we create an equitable and supportive environment that unlocks the potential of these talented individuals, allowing them to thrive in their chosen fields. Together, we can continue to celebrate diversity while dismantling all barriers, and harnessing the significant talent that newcomer women can bring to Canada's workforce.


By Phyllis Muchoki

Phyllis Muchoki is a communications professional and a journalist passionate about digital strategy, marketing and initiatives that empower women of colour to succeed professionally.


We are committed to helping newcomer women find work and get settled in their new home. YWCA Toronto's JUMP Scarborough and JUMP Etobicoke are employment and settlement programs that help women and gender diverse individuals who are newcomers to Canada explore career options, build skills, search for jobs and learn about Canadian society. These programs also offer individuals an opportunity to explore career options in the current labour market while gaining access to settlement counsellors, assistance for applying to colleges and universities, youth leadership development opportunities and more!

To learn more about employment and settlement services at YWCA Toronto, please visit I am a newcomer or refugee (ywcatoronto.org).