COLUMN: Barb Gustafson — April 30, 2014

Barb Gustafson
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A study released this past week from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives looked at the best places for women to live in Canada.

In a process similar to other studies that try to compare cities or regions, it used a variety of measures to rate the 20 largest metropolitan areas against each other. For this study, among Western Canadian cities, Edmonton and Calgary fared poorly; Saskatoon was rated No. 2. I wondered how our city of Prince Albert would compare.

The study used Statistics Canada data to create indicators of health, education, political participation and economic security. The authors looked at gaps between men and women in these areas: are women paid significantly less than men; are they less likely to be employed; how do the two groups compare in rating their own health; what is the difference in education level. It is through looking at the gaps in wellbeing, not in comparing the city’s overall average wage or health indicators to other communities, that a city was rated as female friendly or not.

Stats Canada breaks out data for larger cities, so the official study was limited to these centres. Without the same data available for smaller cities, such as Prince Albert, it’s impossible to create a true comparison to the study, but it is possible to look at the same categories with as much information as is available and rate our city as a good or bad place to live as a woman.

In health, Stats Canada reports for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Authority regionally, but not for the city specifically. In our region during 2013, 52 per cent of women and 48 per cent of men rated their health as very good or excellent. That compares to the Canadian average of 60 per cent. Life expectancy for women here was 82.3 years; for men 76 years, both of which are below the Canadian average.

When asked about life stress, local women reported being stressed at a rate 150 per cent higher than men. The reasons for this stress are not detailed, but Stats Canada 2011 census data on families headed by a long female parent -- 30 per cent of the total families with children in our city -- may be a clue.

Statistics on crimes specifically against women are not readily available, but Prince Albert rates second nationally in per capita violent crime, according to Stats Canada, which is not good for women or men. Information from local interagency sources shows women, particularly young women, more likely than men to be victims of abuse and to be listed as missing persons.

In education, Prince Albert has 30 per cent more women than men with bachelor’s degrees. This gap is larger here than for Canada: nationally, women are 20 per cent ahead of men in earning degrees.  Local women are most likely to have training in education, business administration and health. Men outnumber them in technologies and trades.

In employment, the total number of men and women working in Prince Albert is virtually identical; however, more men than women work full time. And, despite the larger number of women with business administration training, men outnumber women in management by 150 per cent.

Statistics about the pay gap between men and women are often given, with women earning 65 per cent of what men earn as the typically stated number. In Prince Albert, we do a bit better than that: women here earn, on average, 75 per cent of what men earn. Looking to higher earning positions, however, shows a definite gap: men are two times as likely to earn more than $100,000 and four times as likely to earn more than $125,000 in Prince Albert.

With high wages usually tied to senior management positions, this statistic -- and a quick look around at local institutions -- creates a definite gap in this category. When political participation is added to this indicator, Prince Albert looks like a terrible place for women, with only one female among nine city council members.

So how would we rate overall? Let’s compare ourselves to Saskatoon, as our nearest city neighbour.

The gap in employment between men and women in Prince Albert is narrower than in Saskatoon, both in overall participation and full-time employment. Women in Prince Albert are closer to wage parity than their Saskatoon sisters. This does not mean Prince Albert people get paid more than Saskatoon residents, we’re just paid more similarly, comparing men to women.

Health is a problem for Prince Albert women. The number of women reporting life stress is significantly higher than for men, and much higher here than in Saskatoon. Our life expectancy is lower here than in Saskatoon. Our high rate of violent crime is a concern, as women are often victims of abuse, but Saskatoon is not without its problems in this area.

Prince Albert has a smaller gap in education between men and women, but that’s not necessarily good news for women or men. In Saskatoon, the number of women holding college or university credentials is twice that of men. Our gap is lower because our education level is lower.

It is in leadership, particularly, that Saskatoon shines and Prince Albert appears dull by comparison. Our senior management and public leadership ranks remain male bastions while Saskatoon has an almost equal number of women and men on its city council and has many high-ranking female decision makers.

These comparisons are not perfect. And, some will ask, why does it matter? It matters because a good place for women to live is a good place for all groups of people to live. Numerous studies have shown that as women make gains, families and society gain, too.

Equality of opportunity in education, job prospects, advancement, and health are signs of a healthy and progressive community. We still have some work to do, Prince Albert.


Barb Gustafson is a lifelong Prince Albert resident and a former managing editor and publisher of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. Email:

Organizations: Prince Albert, Canadian Centre, Statistics Canada

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Canada, Edmonton Calgary

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