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Victoria best city for women, survey says

Toronto ranked 12th in the new study on gender gap within Canada’s major municipalities
July 14, 2015
By Laurie Monsebraaten

Toronto is not bad, but if you are a woman looking to get into local politics or boost your pay relative to men, Victoria is the best city in Canada, according to the latest survey of the gender gap in the country’s 25 largest municipalities.

Kitchener-Waterloo, where women earn just 66 per cent of what men make, is the worst.

Toronto comes out in the middle, ranking 12th, according to the annual study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which measures the gaps between men and women in five areas: economic security, leadership, health, education and personal security.

First-place Victoria, the only major Canadian city where women outnumber men on municipal council, also boasts virtually equal levels of employment, with women trailing men by just 3 per cent, according to the survey.

By highlighting how the gaps differ across the country, the report aims to keep the issue of women’s equality in the spotlight and show how different communities are responding, said researcher Kate McInturff.

“The reality is Canada has a gender gap. When it comes to pay, jobs and safety, men and women still don’t get equal treatment in Canada,” McInturff said. “We need to take stock of the gaps so we can close them.”

Policies that help women balance work and family life are crucial to closing the gap, she said, pointing to Quebec’s better pay for parental leave, longer and more flexible leave for both parents and $7-a-day child care.

So it’s no surprise that cities in that province - Gatineau, Quebec City and Montreal - are once again in the top 10 this year, she said.

Cities with major public sector employers, which tend to have strong pay-equity policies and a commitment to promoting women, also rank higher on the gender equity scale, as is the case with Victoria and second-place Gatineau.

Calgary, Edmonton and Kitchener-Waterloo - cities that rely heavily on male-dominated industries, such as information technology and petroleum - tend to have wider pay and employment gaps and therefore rank lower on the gender equity scale, McInturff said.

By increasing good jobs in health care, education and social services - sectors dominated by women - these cities can become better for everyone, she said.

“If a guy in Alberta loses his job in construction and his wife is working at Tim Hortons or is unemployed, they are in trouble,” McInturff said. “But if his wife is a nurse, they can ride out the storm.”

As noted in the centre’s first report last year, rates of sexual assault, harassment and intimate partner violence remain high across the country.

However, a flood of high-profile sexual assault and harassment cases last year, including allegations against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, a sexually violent facebook account set up by male dentistry students at Dalhousie University and a report on widespread sexual violence in the military, has prompted unprecedented public discussion and action in this area, McInturff said.

Across the country, colleges and universities are introducing policies to support women victims. The Canadian military has appointed a top-ranking female general to tackle workplace violence, the national broadcaster has strengthened workplace protocols and many private businesses have quietly taken stock.

“In this area, I’m more hopeful than I think I have ever been,” she said. “And I have been working on violence against women for a long time.”

The Rankings

1. Victoria
2. Gatineau
3. Quebec City
4. Abbotsford-Mission
5. Halifax
6. London
7. Vancouver
8. Barrie
9. Montreal
10. Oshawa
11. Ottawa
12. Toronto
13. Kelowna
14. Regina
15. St. John’s
16. St. Catharines-Niagara
17. Kingston
18. Winnipeg
19. Sherbrooke
20. Hamilton
21. Saskatoon
22. Windsor
23. Calgary
24. Edmonton
25. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo