Women in Edmonton have average quality of life, new scorecard shows
From jobs to health, Edmonton gets a 'C' grade when it comes to women's quality of life
In front of a crowd at city hall on Tuesday, Coun. Bev Esslinger recalled how a 2014 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranked Edmonton the worst city in the country for women to live.
"And anybody who was a woman, who looked at that, said, 'That is not true,.' So today we're going to provide you the proof that that is not true.
"We are determined to make Edmonton a great place for women to be."
Esslinger unveiled the city's new "made in Edmonton" scorecard analyzing women's quality of life in five areas.
Data drawn from various sources — Statistics Canada, city reports and Alberta Health Services — concluded that Edmonton is on par with or ahead of other Canadian cities in three categories: women's finances, health and education.
When it comes to the perception of safety and political participation and empowerment, Edmonton is lagging behind.
As the sole woman on city council, Esslinger represents the eight-per-cent female presence in Edmonton municipal politics compared to the national average of 26-per-cent female participation.
Esslinger gave the city a 'C' grade for women's quality of life.
"Three out of five, we did pretty good," she said, explaining that the scorecard is a benchmark for measuring future changes.
Still, Edmonton's reputation for violence shows in the report with the city having one of the highest domestic violence rates in the country.
In 2015, Edmonton had a domestic violence rate of 1,648 per 100,000 people, compared to the Canadian average of 526 per 100,000.
Coun. Scott McKeen is working on the city's gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention initiative. He said a key to curbing domestic violence is changing what we expect of men's behaviour.
"We, as a society, create boys, and men," McKeen suggested. "A lot of the movies and TV shows create this archetype of what a great man is, and it's often one who uses violence to settle problems."
McKeen's goal is to open the dialogue in the city to let men and boys know it's OK to drop the tough-guy façade.
"A lot of men don't know to express vulnerable feelings: Shame, embarrassment, fear — those are often masked with anger because that's an acceptable male emotion."
Sandra Woitas, chair of the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton, contributed to the scorecard.
"I am hopeful that every time we get additional information that gives us more ammunition in order to change policy," Woitas said. "I am hopeful. If I weren't hopeful, I wouldn't be here."
Margerie Campbell, a mother of two, joined in on the announcement because she feels it's important to get involved.
"I'm trying to create a son who's an ally, and a strong daughter, and I feel like this is a great kind of point in our history to really be engaged," Campbell said.
Esslinger and Woitas are both working to encourage more women to become candidates in the fall civic election.
"All we can do is get more women running, because there were many wards that had no women running last time," Esslinger said of the 2013 municipal election that saw her win a seat on council.
"In a perfect world, we'd have equal representation and participation of both genders," Woitas said. "That's just telling us that is something we have to continue to work towards."
The next civic election is Oct. 16, 2017.