Anyone can suggest names for laneways. So why are so few named for women?

A Toronto journalist is sounding the alarm after noticing that male names are dominating Toronto's laneways.

Laneways have been named for men more than three times more frequently than women since 2014

Col. David Shank Lane was named for an 18th century Torontonian after a recommendation in 2014. His is one of 42 men's names added to the city's laneways since 2014. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

A Toronto journalist has made a jarring discovery: of the 89 laneways named in Toronto since 2014, just 13 were named after a woman.

Compare that with the 42 named for men, and the statistics are "shocking," said Arianne Robinson, who wrote about the issue for Signal Toronto.

Robinson, who appeared on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Thursday, said she was inspired to look into laneway names following the most recent iteration of the women's march.

"I was thinking about so many women out on the street and thinking about landmarks and streets and laneways and who they're named after," she told host Matt Galloway.

Frank Kovak Lane in Little Italy was approved in 2003. "Frank Kovac operated Frank’s Garage on Harbord Street for over 30 years. Frank died last year and will be sorely missed by his friends," said a city document about the naming. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Toronto's laneway naming has often leaned toward cheekiness in the past — we've got a laneway named for an Italian stew, after all — but for whatever reason, Robinson said, women's names just aren't showing up as laneway names as often as men's.

The process of naming a laneway, she explained, is simple: "Anyone can do it. You can do it, I can do it, an organization can do it, a business."

When a suggestion is submitted, it goes to one of Toronto's four community councils for approval.  

History lives on in laneways

In Seaton Village, a project by the residents association suggested a raft of names for neighbourhood lanes in 2014.

Among the approved choices are Ken Lai Lane, named for a Chinese immigrant who arrived in Canada with $10 to his name and went on to open a restaurant, and Max Hartstone Lane, for the well-known proprietor of a long-running convenience store.

Belmira Fumo Lane sits close to where the Fumo family lived on Follis Avenue, not far from Bathurst Station. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Also approved was Belmira Fumo Lane, named for a hardworking Portuguese immigrant who was known for generosity among her neighbours.

It's important to remember the stamp women have left on the city, said Robinson.

"Who we celebrate and the manner we celebrate them is really important," she said. "It's how we represent people."

With files from Metro Morning