Women, girls, and trans and non-binary people represent more than half of Toronto’s population. Yet they face higher rates of violence and poverty, and are underrepresented in leadership positions. A Gender Equality Office is an important step towards addressing inequality, and cities including New York, Los Angeles, Vienna, Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa are already taking this step.
Thanks to years of work from advocates across Toronto, City staff have proposed the creation of Toronto's own Gender Equality Office, as well as an intersectional gender equity strategy!
The topic is on the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting taking place tomorrow, September 18. We've sent the following letter to Mayor Tory and Members of the Executive Committee to let them know they have our support in joining these cities on this important journey.
Mayor Tory and Members of the Executive Committee:
Social Planning Toronto congratulates the People and Equity division of the City of Toronto on its recommendations outlined in item EX8.7 Creating a Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto, calling for the creation of an intersectional gender equity strategy and Gender Equity Unit for the City of Toronto. The staff report and recommendations provide an important path forward to address the multiple, deep, and pervasive inequities affecting women, girls, and trans and non-binary people, in all our diversity, across Toronto.
Despite what many people assume, gender equality does not only create advantages for women — it actually benefits everyone. For example, assessing priorities through a gender equality lens often results in an increased focus on the health and development of children. When children’s lives are improved, all of us benefit from reduced crime, a healthier economy, reduced pressure on our overtaxed healthcare infrastructure, increased innovation, and much more. In fact, the Canadian Women’s Foundation points to research showing that gender equality is a more reliable predictor of peace than a country’s GDP or level of democracy.
Through our extensive work with diverse communities across Toronto in community-based research, policy analysis, community development, and civic engagement, Social Planning Toronto has long recognized the gender-based and intersectional nature of inequity across a broad range of policy areas such as housing, transit, child care, recreation, employment, and urban planning.
We are encouraged by several aspects of the staff report, including:
- the central role of extensive community engagement in the development of the strategy;
- the ongoing role of a community advisory group to provide expertise and oversight to guide the work;
- the essential role of data collection and a results-based accountability framework to assess progress on the strategy;
- the critical role of education and engagement with City staff, divisions, and structures to ensure success of the strategy; and
- the need for a resourced Gender Equity Unit to develop, support, and advance this work.
We live in challenging times. The decisions we make today can either bring us together to realize our full potential as one of the greatest cities in the world, or they can polarize us even further. City staff have presented an excellent opportunity for Toronto to demonstrate leadership in building a city where everyone can thrive. We urge the Executive Committee to adopt these recommendations, as a critical step in our ongoing effort to manifest “Diversity, Our Strength.”
Executive Director, Social Planning Toronto