Victoria is celebrating earning the top ranking in a study documenting the best and worst places to be a woman in Canada, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in July.
The study, written by CCPA Senior Researcher Kate McInturff, scored 25 major cities based on economic security, leadership, health and well-being, criminal, sexual, and domestic security, and education. Being the only city with women outnumbering men in official elected positions, Victoria scored first in leadership.
The city also scored highest in economic security, but according to the study, this is because of a lower than national average in employment rate and wage among men. Victoria ranked 11th in education, 12th in security, and 10th in health.
According to Iglika Ivanova, senior economist and public interest researcher at the CCPA, the results for health and education between cities reflect very small differences. These variables are important parameters for studies made on a global scale, and are not predominant in this case.
“Most cities [in Canada] have achieved equality in education, basically. There are differences, but they are much smaller than the economic, security, and leadership variable,” she said.
Ivanova said Victorians can “pat themselves on the back” for their ranking in leadership, but there is still much room for improvement.
“We’re 19th in last year’s Global Gender Gap Report, which is not where most people think we are. Most people think we’re in the top 10,” she said. “The issue is, we can improve even here. Even our best cities are not quite there yet; it’s important to keep working on it.”
Annalee Lepp, chair of UVic’s Department of Women’s Studies, cites the information provided by the study as “necessary” in the absence of the long-form census, scrapped by the federal government in 2010.
Lepp admits her skepticism when the study went viral in Canada, citing a question from an Indigenous student she read on her Facebook News Feed: “What gets lost when you look at gender as the primary variable in a study of this sort?”
“I think the bravado around all of this sort of obscured some of the more complex issues that are at work when we think about cities, well-being, gender inequality, and all of its manifestations,” Lepp said, considering the study’s limitations.
“We [also] need to consider transgender women, and transgender men, who are often [made completely invisible] in this category.”
“Generally, gender only tells us so much on questions of inequality. Gender is not this homogeneous category, we have to look at how it intersects with indigeneity, race, single parent households,” she said. “There are all these variables that shape people’s access to good paying jobs, education, leadership positions, and personal security.”
The study also cites high rates of sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence as a challenge all cities have in common, with the results hardly changing over the last 20 years. The Sexual Assault Centre and UVic’s Anti-Violence Project are among two initiatives aimed at broadening the conversation to enact social investment in anti-violence, Lepp said.
“Not to be too negative — it is important to look at access to employment, access to full-time unionized jobs, subsidized day-care programs,” Lepp said. “[The study] does highlight some key indicators about what it means to have particular institutional or societal things in place that does enhance people’s well-being or equity.”
Kate McInturff says improving things for women everywhere is not an impossible task. “Looking at which city fares the worst and best in terms of gender equality isn’t about winning the cup,” she said in a news release. “It’s about identifying what works in one community and bringing it home to another — so that every city in Canada is a good place to be a woman.”