Friday, October 31, 2014

Women's Inequality in Canada

About 5 months ago the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report that compared the "best and worst place to be a woman in Canada." I wasn't a huge fan of the report - in fact, I thought the analysis wasn't too dissimilar from my zombie post, and disagreed with how strict rankings were compared across broad categories. I also thought that calling Edmonton the "worst place to be a woman" in Canada to be a bit of a jump from the findings as reported - Edmonton was instead (by their standards) the lowest-ranked city out of 20 in terms of equality.

Just recently, the World Economic Forum released its very own report on worldwide gender inequality, and I liked it much better. It measures a similar number of quantitative results, but weighs factors appropriately based on statistical measures, and compares them based on scores instead of their rankings between categories. Though the merits of the specific measures used are open to interpretation, I'm satisfied that they're representative of inequality across the world.

These stats were so well prepared and presented, in fact, that I figured Canadian cities deserved the same treatment in their rankings. If we take (approximately*) the same approach as the World Economic Forum, and apply it to Statistics Canada results for our top 20 cities, this is what we get:

Rank City Score
1 Victoria 0.836
2 London 0.817
3 Sherbrooke 0.783
4 Ottawa-Gatineau 0.777
5 Vancouver 0.773
6 Québec 0.772
7 Toronto 0.766
8 Saskatoon 0.756
9 Montréal 0.747
10 Oshawa 0.746
11 Halifax 0.739
12 Winnipeg 0.730
13 Hamilton 0.727
14 St. Catharines-Niagara 0.726
15 St. John's 0.720
16 Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo 0.713
17 Regina 0.711
18 Windsor 0.708
19 Calgary 0.693
20 Edmonton 0.692

So there's good news and bad news here. Good news: some cities are pretty much in the same rank as the CCPA study (especially around the bottom of the list). Bad news: some cities moved over 10 spots (London and St. John's basically traded places). In general there's a weak correlation between the two analyses.

The World Economic Forum model looks at four major categories: Economic Participation, Health and Survival, Educational Attainment, and Political Empowerment, all weighted the same. Within each category are up to 5 differently weighted sub-categories - statistical measures that are typically converted into ratios of female:male success, with 1.00 being perfect equality, and 0.00 being complete inequality. Weights within each category are distributed based on the overall variance of that measurement, so that a 1% change within one sub-category is worth the same as a 1% change in another.

There are a couple of advantages to using the World Economic Forum model when looking at Canadian cities. Comparing inequality scores to each other allows for a better overall picture of how the city is doing, compared to a strict rank of cities between each other. Also, by following an internationally accepted standard, we can compare these numbers directly to the results of other countries to get a better idea of exactly how good or bad any given city is.

Some fun findings:

Victoria, the best city in this ranking system, has an inequality index of about 0.836, which indicates that it is more or less as equal as the entirety of Norway. It mostly got this due to being very strong across all categories, but particularly for having the closest to balanced city council participation out of any city in the country.

Montréal was approximately equal in terms of female-to-male equality to Canada on average. Much like the country on average, women in Montréal do just as well or better than men in terms of health and education, but are still trailing behind from an economic point of view and are drastically far behind in terms of political representation.

Edmonton, sadly, still has a lot of ground to cover and I'm afraid there's now way of looking at the stats that doesn't rank it last in terms of equality. Our score puts us approximately equal to Russia in terms of inequality.

Edmonton suffers mostly from having had very little female political representation, as well as significantly fewer women working than men, while earning much less than they do.

None of this is saying that Edmonton is particularly bad place to be a woman - certainly I'm sure that most women feel safer in Edmonton than they would in Russia, and the standard of living is likely much better on average. It is simply the case that Edmonton men have it as much easier than Edmonton women do as Russian men to Russian women.

As a country in general, we still have a long ways to go, and I'm certain Canada can climb from 20th in the world. But that change starts here in our cities, and an analysis like this is (in my mind) much more useful for telling us where we stand than the report by the CCPA five months ago.

*Minor changes from WEF report include:
-Political Empowerment: "Head of state" was changed to "mayor", ministerial positions were combined with members of parliament and replaced with current members of council.
-Wage equality for equal work data wasn't available for cities, so it was combined with estimated earned income.

Spreadsheet available upon request

Health 1, 2
Economy 1, 2, 3
Political: Individual city websites


Mapleson said...

For political involvement, it would be interesting to see scores adjusted to percentage of votes for women vs men, rather than a head count of winners.

First, how does the current 4-4 council + female Mayor work for Victoria? Are they penalized by the ratio system by having too many women in power? Second, I looked at the November Council results and not sure what sex "CHANGES THE CLOWN" is, who received 1.03% of the Mayoral vote. Interestly, only one woman ran for council and didn't make the cut, falling 17% short. Overall, women only received 35.61% of the vote, but received 50% of the seats. For mayor, women received 51.03% of the vote.

dong said...

None of this is saying that Edmonton is particularly bad place to be a woman - certainly I'm sure that most women feel safer in Edmonton than they would in Russia, and the standard of living is likely much better on average. It is simply the case that Edmonton men have it as much easier than Edmonton women do as Russian men to Russian women.
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