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London ranks third in national look at how women fare in overall well-being

London is Canada’s third-best city in which to be a woman, says a new report that ranks how women fare in security, leadership, health and economic well-being.

But the ranking tells just a fraction of the story, says a local activist.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an independent policy research centre, ranks London as third among 25 major Canadian cities, behind Victoria and Kingston, in equity for women.

Shawna Lewkowitz, who heads London’s Women in Politics group, said Thursday that the ranking “sounds really fabulous” and there are some positives to be drawn from the list.

But in the category of economic well-being, for example, London’s rank is boosted — not because both women and men are doing well but because they are doing almost equally poorly, Lewkowitz said.

The report notes 20 per cent of women live below the poverty level — the highest among the cities — while 22 per cent of men live in poverty. There’s virtual parity, but it’s not a healthy one.

“It’s a comparison from city to city and mostly it’s a comparison of how women are doing compared to men,” Lewkowitz said. And if there’s little gap between the sexes — even if neither is doing well — a city only appears to be doing well.

Even so, Lewkowitz said, the ranking “is not all doom and gloom.”

There’s been an increase in the number of women in local, provincial and federal politics and in senior leadership positions in municipal administration, the report says. While women are outnumbered two to one on city council, “London has done better than most of the cities measured here,” the report says.

In 2014, by comparison, London ranked sixth among major Canadian cities.

The boost this time comes largely from changes to women’s health (in which London had been dead last) and in leadership.

Roberta Fox, who heads Fox Group Technology, recently returned to London from Toronto after 30 years away from this city. London, she said is a good place to be, and good for her as a person who advocates for women in technology and telecommunication. “The social and cultural life is wonderful.”

Businesses, though, are less progressive, more risk-averse and less entrepreneurial than she had hoped. She describes herself as a “long-standing entrepreneur and Bay Street gal” and her company has offices in downtown Toronto.

Yet, she said, when she attends various networking events with her husband, who is vice-president of her company, people almost invariably presume he is the driving force behind the firm. “I’m not used to being a ‘corporate wife,’” Fox said.

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