Waterloo Region not a great place for women to live, says report

Women living in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are the most likely to report high stress levels in comparison with 19 other cities across Canada. In addition, only 45 per cent of working women in the region have a full-time job.
The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area ranked 16 out of 20 on the study. 35 per cent of women surveyed said they experienced high levels of stress. (Shutterstock)

Women living in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are the most likely to report high stress levels in comparison with 19 other cities across Canada. 

That finding is part of a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which examines the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country and determines which are the best and worst places to be a woman.

The report considered five factors; economy, security, leadership, health and education and is based on census data from Statistics Canada. 

The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (K-W-C) area ranks low in the report at 16 out of 20. 35 per cent of women claimed they have high stress levels.

"In general when you see lower levels of employment, which you do with women, only 45 per cent of women in Kitchener-Waterloo are working full-time jobs, and you see higher rates of poverty among women, those things are highly likely to contribute to stress," Kate McInturff, the author of the report, told Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Thursday.

"You can imagine if you are not making enough money to make ends meet, you're going to be pretty stressed out."

All working women in K-W-C are also more likely to experience a wage gap compared to what men earn. On average, it's about $14,400 less than men. 

"For me personally, the stress factor I would never have guessed," said Michelle Pyke, the Director of Marketing at SalesEvolve in Waterloo, of the report. Pyke appeared on The Morning Edition along with McInturff to discuss the findings.

Where cities ranked

Quebec City topped McInturff's list, while Montreal came in at 4, positions that she says are due to Quebec's polices such as subsidized child care and parental leave policies which have helped women maintain full-time employment there. 

Another factor McInturff considered was how many women were in senior management positions. She found that women made up only 26 per cent of those positions in K-W-C. 

It was a finding that surprised Michelle Pyke. 

"When I think of things in Kitchener-Waterloo, I think about the board that I'm on, Women Powering Technology and our whole mandate to inspire and support and elevate women in leadership, specifically in tech," said Pyke. "I think about the things that are happening on the ground that maybe a study, obviously like this, would miss," 

"We know that there's this problem. This exists across the board, I think every single industry is touched by it. But I think we have to start moving towards, now what's the solution? What can we do about it?"

But even within K-W-C, there are differences between the cities. For example, Waterloo is one of only two cities in the country where female city councillors outnumber male councillors. The other is Victoria.  

And McInturff sees gains for women in Ontario. 

"In Ontario, because of the investments in education and health, you see women picking up jobs in those much better paying industries and as a result, you see women earning more," said McInturff, when comparing the region to Edmonton and Calgary, which ranked 20 and 17 respectively. 

Below, Michelle Pyke joined online host Andrea Bellemare in our daily live chat to talk about the issues facing women brought up by the CCPA report.