In July 2015 The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a study entitled “The Best and Worst Places to Be a Women in Canada 2015: The Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities.” According to their website, the CCPA “is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice.” They were founded in 1980 and through their donor-funded research model they have become one of the “leading progressive voices in public policy debates,” (policyalternatives.ca).
I have strong respect for the CCPA and the work that they do, but the Gender Gap Study puzzled me when I first saw the results. Of the 25 cities considered, Windsor (including the surrounding Essex County) came in at spot twenty-two, above only Calgary, Edmonton, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo. Having grown up in Essex County I am of course slightly biased, as my love for this city runs deep, but even I can admit that Windsor needs some work. However, the discrepancy between the rankings of Windsor and London, for example, came as quite the surprise. I have also lived in London, and did not feel that the two cities were dissimilar enough to result in a difference of sixteen places (London came in at spot 6).
When designing the study the CCPA singled out five areas under which to rank each city, and then based their overall rankings from those results. The five areas under scrutiny were economic security, education, health, leadership, and security.
Some of the results for the specific areas I found to be strange – education, for example. The study admits that Windsor Women are more likely than Windsor men to have completed high school, college, or university. The number of local women with college degrees is above the national average, while the number of local women with university degrees is slightly below the national average. 10% of local men have completed trades training, while only 5% of women have.
These statistics, to me, seem pretty decent. And yet, they result in a ranking of 22nd in education. Compare this to London, which came in at 6th overall and 16th in terms of education. Their statistics on trades are exactly the same as Windsor’s, and again women are more likely than men to have completed high school, college, or university. And again, the rates of London women completing college are slightly higher than the national average. The study did not include information on London women completing university.
So, with fewer statistics provided, and those that exist being almost identical, how is it that London managed to rank six spots higher than Windsor in terms of education?
As I went through this study I found more and more questionable rankings. The personal security area was one that particularly bothered me.
“The rate of intimate partner violence reported to police in Windsor is higher than average,” claims the study. Higher than what average? Provincial? National? Continental? I can’t be sure. The study goes on to say that 90% of sexual violence, and 70% of domestic violence are unreported, and so any statistics available “do not reflect actual levels of violence,” and that local police practices may also affect these numbers. The best information, says the study, comes from self-reporting surveys, which are only available at national and provincial levels.
Let’s compare these statistics to Toronto.
The writeups for the two cities are exactly the same, except for one number. In Toronto in 2013, 2,253 incidences of sexual and domestic violence perpetrated against women were reported. This is apparently lower than the “average” that we heard about earlier. Windsor, on the other hand, had 175 incidents reported that same year. This suggests that the unclear “average” is in some terms of population percentage, but it is still a bit questionable as to what statistics are being used here.
So, with nearly identical information provided, Windsor and Toronto must at least be ranked close to each other in terms of personal security, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Toronto came in at 9th place in terms of personal security, while Windsor was again at 22nd.
It might be clear by now that I am a little leery of the results of the entire study. But it might still just be my bias. I need to know though – is Windsor really that horrible of a place for Canadian women to be living? Should we all flock to Victoria, where our lives will surely be easier?
I decided the best way to figure things out would be to talk to real people. Given unlimited time and resources I would talk to multiple people of each gender from each of the twenty-five cities being studied. I would ask them questions that relate to the five areas of study and try to make as honest of a ranking as possible based on their responses.
Unfortunately, I have four other classes and a lot of student debt to contend with, so such a large-scale project isn’t exactly feasible at the moment.
Instead, I decided to keep it local.
I was able to round up four men and four women currently living in Windsor, and had conversations with them about their economic security, education, health, personal security, and the way they view women in leadership positions. While the results aren’t exactly scientific, I believe that the insight they give to Windsor’s gender gap is at least as good as that provided by the CCPA’s study.
I believe that the best way to convey this information is through the participants themselves. Hearing their opinions and experiences in their own words and with their own voices makes for a much more accurate (and interesting) exploration of these issues. And so, I decided to create a two-part radio documentary that will air on CJAM 99.1 FM’s feminist talk show, Milk and Vodka, over the next two weeks.
On Tuesday, March 28th from 8 to 9 pm I will be airing the interviews conducted with local women, and on Tuesday, April 4th at the same time we will hear from the men.
I can’t guarantee that the results of the interviews will be what I was hoping for, or even what the CCPA was hoping for. They are just the honest opinions and experiences of local residents. In advance of the show, I would like to introduce you to our female participants, Stacy Adam, Alison Beetham, Shay Rachelle, and Lynn Meharg.