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In January 1950, S. Grinberg-Vinaver (left), Mrs. Lefaucheux (centre) and Rose Parsons (right) worked with the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, the policy arm of the UN that is dedicated to advancing women’s rights and gender equality.

Canada's best and worst cities to be a woman

On International Women's Day, let's talk about closing the gender gap

This is from our weekly Discourse newsletter. Make sure to share it and subscribe here.


The worst city to be a woman in Canada is Barrie, Ontario, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ report on gender equality released this week. The report looked at how Canada’s 26 largest cities performed when it came to economic security, education, health, leadership and safety.

Barrie’s low score comes in part from its lack of jobs for women and an income gap from men’s earnings that amounts to about $16,000 per year. According to the report, the region fares “particularly badly when it comes to seeing women in management positions” — women make up less than 26 per cent of managers in the city. That’s the lowest percentage among Canada’s large cities.

The best city to be a woman, according to the report, is a three-hour drive east of Barrie in Kingston, Ont. But while the city offers better job and education opportunities for women, it also has a higher-than-big-city average rate of police-reported sexual assault, though that could be due to a concerted effort to support people reporting.

Across Canada, women remain under-represented in the classroom, the workplace and government, the report shows, and it’s not because we aren’t participating. Women are more likely to vote in local elections but make up only one-third of city councillors and only one in five mayors, the report notes. In federal politics, the gap is worse. And in the workplace, “women make up 48 per cent of all employees but only one-third of managers, most of them concentrated in middle management,” the report says, and “that share hasn’t changed in five years.”  

This International Women’s Day, where in Canada did you find inspiration? What about around the world, like in Saudi Arabia, where they just held their first-ever Women’s Day? Or the growing movement in communist China, first sparked by five fierce feminists who occupied men’s washrooms? Let me know where you are seeing the gender gap close and I’ll share some of your stories in an upcoming newsletter.

Did you hear?

  • Some residents in Cowichan, BC are celebrating after reaching a settlement with a local racetrack. The residents agreed to drop their lawsuit, they say, because of progress made towards addressing their noise concerns outside of court. Reporter Jacqueline Ronson first reported on the racetrack in July in this story, which found  that the local paper failed to adequately report the neighbours’ concerns, possibly because of an advertising relationship with the owners of the track.
  • This year’s Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ report on gender equality was dedicated to activist, researcher and scholar Kate McInturff who died of cancer last summer. In her final blog post she shared how data can be a powerful tool to shaping good policy writing: “Turns out that with a calculator, a passing knowledge of tax policy, and a big love of data, a woman can show you the money. Laying bare the real question, which is: Why aren’t you spending on reducing the barriers to women’s well-being? To their safety? To their security?”  
  • Did you ever think you could sing your way to a PhD in physics? That’s what Pramodh Senarath Yapa did after being crowned the 2018 winner of the “Dance Your PhD” contest. He’s a physicist currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Here’s his swinging musical on electrons.
  • If that got you tapping your feet, and you’re looking for some music to get you moving this Women’s History Month, have a listen to this Spotify playlist of Latin Divas.

Updates from Cowichan

Community members gather to discuss ways to reduce child apprehensions in the Cowichan Valley at a town hall hosted by MLA Sonia Furstenau on Feb. 7.

Child apprehensions in Canada have been called “a humanitarian crisis” by Sonia Furstenau, the Green MLA for the Cowichan Valley. Now the issue is getting attention in local and national outlets as the community tries to find ways to address the flaws in its child-welfare system. But some residents say these stories “don’t reflect the complexity of the issues and the good work of many trying to address them,” our Cowichan reporter, Jacqueline Ronson, wrote in a recent newsletter.

Jacqueline and The Discourse’s dedicated child-welfare reporter, Brielle Morgan, will be hosting a community discussion on how journalists can improve coverage of the child welfare system this evening as part of Cowichan’s International Women’s Day festival this week.

To learn more about the ideas sparked from the event, follow Jacqueline’s work by signing up for her newsletter here.