The best Canadian cities for working women

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has released its 2017 report, detailing the best and worst cities for Canadian women to work across the country. The findings were gathered based on ratings in five categories: Economic Security, Education, Health, Leadership and Security. The report assessed 25 of Canada’s biggest metropolis cities.

Toronto, which ranked No. 10 overall, boasted one of the most highly educated populations, falling just behind the nation’s capital. Women, however, brought home $9,000 less than men did in the city.

The report notes that women are “constantly underemployed with more than 670,000 women working part time, involuntarily,” and women earn less than men even if they hold the same education and/or experience in the field. The CCPA findings also show that women put in an average of 10 hours extra of unpaid work each week.

Lead author of the study, Kate McInturff, found that over the past five years the progress on closing the gender wage gap and gender gap in employment has stalled with only “incremental movement within cities and nationally” and in some cases the wage gap has gotten worse, not better.

The research demonstrates how affordable and accessible childcare is essential to narrowing the gap in employment (more than 90 per cent of those that take parental leave in Canada are women). Women also noted the challenges of returning to work or finding full-time work after several years out of the workforce. McInturff believes it’s time for employers to “understand that a woman’s education and experience doesn’t vanish because she took two years of parental leave.”

Coming in at the bottom of the list for the second year in a row is Windsor, Ontario, which sees one in four workers employed in the manufacturing sector and less than 30 per cent of women make up those workers. Women make 75 per cent of what men do and nearly one in four women live below the low-income line. Edmonton, Alberta (No. 18) has one of the largest wage gaps in the country and cities like Hamilton continue to have low female representation in their elected officials. Québec City and Montreal have low grades when it comes to the promotion of women in the private sector.

Self-employed women face additional risks too, as women are less likely to have access to pensions or retirement savings plan.

“Women consistently have lower rates of access to financing,” notes McInturff. While the current federal government is taking steps to address this, “women are [still] paid less than men and are more likely to work full-time, which means they take on a greater economic risk when they take on debt.” McInturff says the same can be seen with student debt where “women, [because of the pay gap] take longer to pay back their student loans and therefore pay more interest over time,” which can be regarded as a “kind of extra gender tax on their loan.”

The national average for full-time employment among women is 57 per cent and generally speaking, the report shows that women tend to find more work outside of politics. 42 per cent of women over the age of 15 are employed full-time in the country. Ottawa saw the highest wages for female workers who make just under $38,000 on average — the most amongst the cities measured.

There are improvements being made that are creating more opportunities for women: St. John’s is one of the cities that’s incorporated a ‘Feminist Working Hub’ to foster new business and collaborative efforts. Organizations like Group Femmes in Québec or Calgary’s ‘Ask Her’ campaign aim at bringing more women representation in social and political realms. More resources and support for women’s organizations as well as funding and awareness remain central for equality among women workers in Canada.

“Transparency is one of the key levers for closing the pay gap,” says McInturff. “Until employers are willing to track pay and be transparent about the gaps they find and how they are going to close them, we will continue to see a pay gap.”

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No. 10: Toronto, Ontario

Economic Security: 12
Education: 21
Health: 16
Leadership: 7
Security: 4
Women’s paycheques are slightly larger than average, however, women bring hom $9,000 less per year than men in Toronto. The employment rate is below average (57 per cent) for women and above average (68 per cent) for men. A third of the jobs in the city are in finance, science and tech and manufacturing, which are predominately male-dominated industries. The wage gap has remained at 77 per cent for the last five years.

No. 9: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Economic Security: 9
Education: 7
Health: 6
Leadership: 13
Security: 12
59 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women are working full-time in Halifax. Women take home $11,000 less than men, per year. 29 per cent of provincial workers earn less than $15/hour. More than a quarter of women (27 per cent) hold a university degree, which is several points higher than the national average. Poverty rates are said to be rising for women, from 15 per cent to 19 per cent over the past five years.

No. 8: Sherbrooke, Québec

Economic Security: 8
Education: 2
Health: 17
Leadership: 16
Security: 3
Women’s employment has been rising over the past five years and women earn 78 per cent of what men earn overall. The study reports that “in practical terms” women take home $3,000 more than they did in 2011. Poverty rates for women are high, 20 per cent live below the low-income measure, compared to 14 per cent of men in the city. Women are more likely than men to have a high school, college or university degree.

No. 7: St. John’s, Newfoundland

Economic Security: 4
Education: 3
Health: 3
Leadership: 24
Security: 8
Women take home $15,000 less per year than men in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The employment rate for women has remained steadfast for the past five years (63 per cent). The largest employment sectors in the city are within the health and social services and sales sectors, which have large shares of female workers. Poverty rates remain high for women. Throughout the province “nearly one in five women lives below the low-income measure,” according to the report.

No. 6: Québec City, Québec

Economic Security: 3
Education: 6
Health: 10
Leadership: 12
Security: 17
Québec City has one of the smallest employment gaps in the country–both women and men are fairly equal in job occupancy. Women’s empoyment rate is 64 per cent (much higher than the national average of 57 per cent). Women’s incomes are also higher than average and rates of poverty remain lower in the city (10.2 per cent for men, 9.7 per cent for women). Women make up “one in three elected official in the Québec City region,” and the city has 11 men and 10 women on council.

No. 5: Vancouver, British Columbia

Economic Security: 16
Education: 20
Health: 2
Leadership: 5
Security: 7
The number of women working full-time is below the national average, sitting at 41 per cent. The wage gap has worsened too, according to the study, where five years ago women were earning 70 per cent of that of a man’s salary whereas today it’s 69 per cent. Poverty rates are up for both men and women in the city, too. 27 per cent of women hold university degrees while 26 per cent of men do. 40 per cent of the region’s elected officials are women. The average life expectancy is 86 years for women and 81 years for men.

No. 4: Kingston, Ontario

Economic Security: 5
Education: 15
Health: 1
Leadership: 18
Security: 10
Women are reported to live longer than men (83 years compared to 78 years) and women rate their health as being in “good or excellent” condition. Women also report siginificantly lower levels of stress than men, and hold 36 per cent of management jobs. Women earn 79 per cent of what men do and the wage gap has remained the same over the past four years.

No. 3: Hamilton, Ontario

Economic Security: 10
Education: 19
Health: 11
Leadership: 4
Security: 1
Both men and women are reported to earn more than the national average (women bring 73 per cent of what men do). The number of women that graduate from college is higher here than average, 23 per cent of women hold a college or CEGEP degee. 31 per cent of Hamilton’s elected officials are women and women hold 40 per cent of management positions in the city. Poverty rates are slightly below average for women and men.

No. 2: Gatineau, Québec

Economic Security: 2
Education: 1
Health: 22
Leadership: 3
Security: 24
Women have high rates of employment in Gatineau (64 per cent), which is greater than average rates, nationally. The report states that “half of all women over age 15 in Gatineau are employed full-time, compared to 42 per cent nationally.” This is the second year that Gatineau comes in with the smallest wage gap of cities measured, women bring home only 14 per cent less than men. Women earn $7,000 more per year than the country’s average. Of the 25 cities reported on, both men and women are pretty much equal in terms of education, and women make up 40 per cent of management jobs.

No. 1: Victoria, British Columbia

Economic Security: 1
Education: 11
Health: 18
Leadership: 1
Security: 14
Victoria claims top spot for the third year in a row. Women in Victoria hold the most elected office positions at nearly half (45 per cent) within the region. Women in management positions also thrive in Victoria–45 per cent of senior managers are females. 26 per cent of women have university degrees and Victoria is the only city where more women are employed than men. There are more women than men living in the city, however, but the gap in full-time employment remains smaller than that seen across the country. Women take home 73 per cent of what men make. Men are more likely to live in poverty than women, which is different than many of the other cities on the list. 15 per cent of women are below the low-income line.

(THE CANADIAN PRESS – Deddeda Stemler)

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