With 69% of the jobs, men still dominate Calgary's city hall

A new report on gender equity, diversity and inclusion shows that 7 out of 10 people working for the city are men, and Coun. Druh Farrell says more needs to be done to balance that.

Council receives new report detailing gender equity strategy

Mona Kronberg joined the Calgary Fire Department in 1993. (Courtesy Mona Kronberg)

Coun. Druh Farrell wants the City of Calgary to revisit its commitment to gender equity, while Mona Kronberg — one of the city's gender equity trailblazers — wants women thinking about blazing trails of their own to prepare themselves for some bumps in the road.

Farrell spoke to Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray Wednesday about the need at different levels of municipal planning and policy implementation to ensure that a diversity of opinion exists, after a report on gender equity, diversity and inclusion found that men hold 69 per cent of the 12,514 jobs at city hall.

"There are a number of departments — like roads and the fire department — that have more men than women and that may seem natural," Farrell said. "But are we missing something? Are we missing a certain perspective by not encouraging more women to enter those fields as an example?

"If you look at our management … at one point, we had almost all men as managers and women were more subordinate. And that's changing thankfully," she said.

"But it's something that we need to be aware of and address."

Farrell says it's good management to challenge what seems "natural."

"I don't think it's natural," she said.  "It's just [that] it's some historical norms of people entering certain fields. I mean the fire department is a good example. It wasn't something that women did — and yet women are really interested in becoming firefighters.

"Is it a welcoming environment when they decide to enter that field? In the past it hasn't been a welcoming environment."

Coun. Druh Farrell says the gender imbalance at city hall is something that needs to be addressed. (James Young/CBC)

'Dirty grunt work'

Thursday on the Calgary Eyeopener, Gray spoke to Kronberg, who was the second woman to join the Calgary Fire Department, back in 1993.

Kronberg didn't exactly sugar coat the experience.

"It ends up being dirty, dirty grunt work. Wearing over time, and it's interesting work," she said.  "Not for everyone —  so choose carefully."

Kronberg said it was a challenge to feel accepted.

"You always feel like there's … they're looking for a reason why women shouldn't be here," she said.

That scrutiny stressed her out, she said. "[You're] very conscientious of making a mistake. The lights are on you. So that was always in the back of your head … if I screw up something up, then you're giving them a fuel for, 'That's why we shouldn't hire women.'"

Kronberg said she was told there were stations she couldn't be assigned to because there were no women's facilities in terms of bathrooms or dorms.

It made everything about her work life more of a struggle, she said.

"I was around for eight or 10 years before you start saying, 'Hey, well I think we should do this,' because you just don't want to pick your battles."

As to whether things have changed enough in the 26 years that have followed, Kronberg basically said it's hard to define 'enough.'

"It's certainly changed a great deal in the 20 years I was there," she said.

"But we're a long way behind a lot of more progressive departments that do have a lot more women."

Kronberg's advice for women joining the fire department in 2019?

"Keep your head on straight and try not to take things personally," she said. "You know, you do you.  Let's just hang on to your own self-esteem."

Mona Kronberg was the second woman to ever join the Calgary Fire Department, back in 1993. Here she's featured on the cover of Impact Magazine in 1997. (Courtesy Mona Kronberg)

'Reflect that population'

Farrell said that for a city to fully function, it needs to hear a range of voices.

"When you've got a city that is representing a diverse population, the decision makers should reflect that population," she said.

"Otherwise how do we have an understanding of the hopes and dreams of a particular sector of the population? And boards in the private sector understand this," she added.

"They're striving for diversity in their boards, because it helps you be more creative. It's challenging. Sometimes there's healthy tension, but you end up making better decisions.

"And when we're providing services for Calgarians, we should have an understanding of the perspective of Calgarians."

The City of Calgary wants to get more gender diversity in its workforce -- right now, 69 percent of all city employees are male. Councillor Druh Farrell joined David Gray to explain the Gender Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy. 7:53

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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