07/15/2015 04:02 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT

Halifax scores high in best, worst cities for women, except in wages

Women in Halifax take home 70 cents for every man's dollar, a full 10 cents less than other women across Canada.  

The pay gap can be found in a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Titled "Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2015," the study ranks Halifax as fifth overall in 25 cities. Victoria, ranked in fifth place last year, was named the top city for gender equality. Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo came in last. 

"That tells me you've got some employers in the city that may need to pay more attention to this," said Kate McInturff, the study's author.

She said pay gaps between women and men end up narrowing in employment sectors that force employers to track them. 

"Any employer can do that," she said, adding that it often results in happy female employees, less turnover and more success in attracting qualified female employees to the workforce. 

City scores high in health care

McIntuff said there's some good news with the bad news.

"On the whole, it looks like women in Halifax are relatively satisfied with their level of health care," she said.

Halifax scored second overall for women's health. She said women in the city live longer than men, are more likely to rate their health as good or excellent. They are also accessing gender-specific forms of health care, such as screening for cervical cancer. 

The city's lowest ranking was 12th place in Canada for women in leadership.  

According to the study, 37 per cent of senior managers are women. Female representation in political office is lower than the rest of Canada, at one in four.

The city's gendered wage gap is no surprise to Sherry Battiste and Juliana Wiens.

They manage Women's Employment Outreach, which provides employment support to women. 

Wage gap significant issue

"It's definitely a significant issue in Halifax," said Wiens.  

She said a challenging job market, expensive child care and devaluing of women's work all contribute to this. 

Battiste said women contribute billions in free labour to Canada's gross domestic product every year that isn't recognized — in free child care, elderly care and household duties. 

She added that women are more likely to do volunteer work for social services. 

Families will sometimes decide a mother will stay home for a year, phrasing it as a choice, "but it's often the structure that leads to those choices," Wiens said.

There is an assumption that couples share family income equally, but that is not always the case with women, she said. And gender wage gaps make women more vulnerable to staying in unhealthy or abusive relationships.  

Pay discrepancy impacts children

Because more women than men head single-parent families, Wiens said the gender wage gap impacts their children. 

"The wage gap gets constantly and consistently denied," said Wiens of employers. "It's something that might happen somewhere else. Not in my company, of course." 

Battiste said devaluing women's work effects their sense of self-worth. 

"One of the biggest impacts I see regarding wage gap is erosion of women's self esteem," said Battiste. 

"They're not seeing the skills and abilities they have, or the knowledge they've gained and work they've done as contributing to society."

Battiste said a big part of her work is to empower women to push for benefits, to ask for appropriate salaries and "to fight for an equitable wage that they need to actually live a good life."