Increasing women’s wellbeing benefits us all

woman peeking from behind leaf

Lower living standards, lower feelings of safety, and greater personal sacrifice for Canadian women

Quite recently, millions of concerned women marched in Washington DC and other cities around the world to have their voices heard.  Their response is not surprising given that many girls and women around the world continue to be denied rights to education, democratic participation, and economic equality.

What about Canada?  In November 2016, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) released its latest national report, How are Canadians really doing?, which examines 21 years of data in eight domains that Canadians have told us matter most to their quality of life. On International Women’s Day, we should take a moment to celebrate where women in Canada are making progress.  For example, we currently have gender parity in the federal cabinet and more women than men aged 25 to 64 hold a university degree.[1]

But we cannot be complacent. Many barriers remain. The CIW report found that, in many aspects of their daily lives, women’s wellbeing lags behind men’s wellbeing in our country.

It is a fact that women in Canada…

  • …struggle with lower living standards: They are more likely to be underemployed. More women are working part-time because secure, full-time employment is less available to them. Single mothers and older women face a greater risk of poverty.
  • …fear more for their safety: They do not feel as safe as men do. In 2014, over 90 per cent of Canadian men said they felt safe walking alone after dark compared to only two-thirds of women (68 per cent).
  • …are less involved in democratic institutions: They now represent 26 per cent of the members in federal Parliament. This marks progress since 1994; but at this pace, it will take another 80 years to achieve gender parity!
  • …sacrifice more personal time: They spend less time with their friends, half as much time volunteering in culture and recreation, and exercise less regularly than men do. While women spend, on average, a much greater percentage of their time than men on both social leisure and arts and culture activities, the decline in social leisure activities by all Canadians from 1998 to 2014 was accounted for almost entirely by women.
  • …feel a greater time crunch: They, along with single parents of young children, feel the greatest time pressure.

We know that when women’s wellbeing increases, it benefits all of us. Twenty-one years of data compiled by the CIW tell us emphatically that we have not been making the right investments to secure a high quality of life for all of our people. We can do better. It’s time to use wellbeing as the lens for decision-making in Canada.


[1] Statistics Canada. (2016). Women and education: Qualifications, skills and technology. Retrieved from

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