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Capital region not ideal for women: study

Major study says Edmonton worst place to live in Canada for women

By: Stu Salkeld

  |  Posted: Friday, Apr 25, 2014 04:00 pm

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The Best and Worst Place in Canada to be a Woman

More information about the report can be found at www.policyalternatives.ca

Are you a St. Albert woman thinking of going to work in Edmonton? You might want to think twice after a major report ranked Edmonton as the worst city in Canada to be a woman.

The Best and Worst Place in Canada to be a Woman was authored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s senior researcher Kate McInturff and ranked 20 of Canada’s large cities on gender equality, including economic factors but also including serious social issues like sexual assault rates and domestic violence against women.

McInturff also included factors such as how many women held political office, what levels of education women attained and how their salaries or wages compared to their male counterparts who performed identical work. Edmonton finished dead last out of the 20 cities.

“Edmonton also has the largest gap in employment incomes, with women earning nearly $21,000 less per year than their male peers (or 60 per cent of male wages),” stated McInturff in her report.

“Edmonton has higher than average rates of intimate partner violence reported to the police. Rates of police-reported sexual assault are among the highest of the top 20 cities. Over 4,000 incidents of sexual and domestic violence are reported annually in Edmonton. However, because 90 per cent and 70 per cent of all incidents of sexual and domestic violence respectively go unreported, these numbers do not reflect actual levels of violence.”

Lower than expected

Stop Abuse In Families executive director Doreen Slessor said the bottom-ranking was, at first, a surprise, but then it sank in.

“I thought we would be low but not last,” she said Thursday.

“When I looked at it from a purely financial way, it makes sense. Big money, fast money, oil-related money. I don’t know a lot of women who work in the field – very few in the trades.

“Our political scene at the moment has few women on city council.

“From the social aspect, yes, we have one of the highest rates of domestic violence, and I wonder is that related to the disparity in income?

“Day care is certainly an issue, not enough good facilities and the high cost with really low subsidy rates. We see women staying in an abusive marriage because they would never be able to afford the day care and can’t apply for subsidy because they make over the limit.

“On the plus side we had some of the highest rates of women attending university and further education,” added Slessor.

Familiar problems

Dee-Ann Schwanke, a columnist for the St. Albert Gazette, has also written extensively at the University of Alberta about gender equality and so-called glass ceilings. She said Edmonton’s bottom ranking didn’t surprise her and illustrates issues facing women in general.

“In terms of the workplace, the wage gap is only one of many challenges. Women still struggle to be recognized for the potential and skills they bring to the table.

“Research continues to show that women face multiple forms of barriers,” she said Friday. “Some of these are deep-rooted structures that surface in societal perceptions and corporate structure. Others are from prevailing perceptions of gender and leadership. Others are from prejudices and discrimination, and finally, women themselves also perpetuate the barriers.

“There is a rigid structure in society that is taking a long time to bend. Further, household responsibilities remain primarily on the shoulders of women, despite their advancement into the workplace.

“Cultural perceptions of women also hold significant power over their freedom. Women in many cultures are seen as limited in their choices. They are held to roles of child bearing and family responsibilities and their behaviour is considered acceptable only if it is submissive,” said Schwanke.

“Secondly, prevailing perceptions of leadership give men ownership of authority roles. Men are expected to be forthright, direct. Women who behave that way will be resisted and criticized. However, they are encouraged to act feminine.

“Thirdly, prejudices and discrimination still exist. Women in high-visibility roles are often stereotyped into role traps, such as the mother or seductress or the iron lady. Some men and women are very opposed to women in leadership, and will consciously or subconsciously oppose women who advance.”

Schwanke said a double standard was on display in the recent resignation of Premier Alison Redford.

“In terms of political representation, women face open criticism when they step into that role,” she said.

“In the days prior to former premier Alison Redford’s resignation, she was openly mocked for the way she looked. Comments that debased her sneer, her age, and the way she looked ran rampant. It was astonishing to see how few people kept to the matter at hand. Instead, people seemed to think that the point of the matter was how the woman looked.

“For anyone taking a simple observation of the world around them, they will see discrepancies in the roles and rights of men and women around them. Imagine any scenario, and begin switching roles in the situation. Ask yourself, ‘How would this look if the men were women, and the women were men?’ The inequality will come out glaringly obvious at times,” she added.


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