On behalf of Women and Politics London, I want to state my support for the London Plan and also commend City Staff and Council on their extensive work in engaging Londoners. This forward-thinking plan for our city is the result of a thorough and focussed engagement process that I enthusiastically applaud.
The London Plan
There is much to like about the plan and the vision it sets out for London over the next 25 years.
There is a strong commitment to diversity and inclusiveness embedded throughout the plan. Recognizing that our city thrives best when we have a city where everyone feels welcome and where all people’s needs are considered, is a real strength of the London Plan.
The focus on cohesive neighbourhoods with access to amenities is a really important one for women. Given that women still carry the bulk of the load of domestic responsibilities, having neighbourhoods with good access to shopping, banks, daycare and more is extremely important to the quality of life of women and families. In addition, having a section that focusses on housing and homelessness recognizes the importance of secure and stable housing to the health of all people, including women.
The London Plan includes and emphasizes improved transit and active transportation, which is vitally important to the realities of women’s lives and the need for them to be able to move efficiently through the city. Being connected to major areas of our city allows for the greatest access to jobs, healthcare, childcare and community connections.
Women who are low-income will also benefit greatly from creating a local, vibrant food system where food is readily available and located close by.
As I said there is much to like about the London Plan and these are just a few of the highlights that relate to women.
Despite these strengths and many others in the plan, we do think that gender and the way women and men use a city differently, hasn’t been considered enough in the London Plan.
The Fair Shared City concept, also called Gender Mainstreaming, is a public policy strategy that makes women and men’s concerns and experiences an integral part of any planned actions or policies. In a municipal setting the goal is to have cities that meet the needs of everyone.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many cities have included Fair Shared City Planning or Gender Mainstreaming into their decision making processes and policies.
Montreal’s Women and City program led to the building of new metro stations surrounded in glass so women could be seen more easily, as well as buses that let women off between stops at night, and the training of 200 small businesses with signs in the windows to indicate safe spaces for women. These and other initiatives are a large part of the reason that Montreal was ranked the 4th best major-city to live in for Women in Canada.
Vienna has prioritized gender mainstreaming and is often used as a global example of a city that is designed well to meet the needs of both men and women and the City of Ottawa has included a gendered lens in many of its initiatives.
Understanding the Stats
In looking at the London Plan and some of the statistics that helped shape the plan, we also see an information gap regarding how many men and women make up our city or how they may use our city differently.
Although we know that the City has been very inclusive in their Rethink process and that gender is likely assumed in the intent of many of the policies, unless gender is explicitly looked at, the default is that men and women are the same.
The United Nations and others recognize the importance of using a gender lens in planning and policy making and so should London.
Gender Differences Matter
There are examples of items in the London plan where gender differences matter, and may not be fully addressed.
For every 3 men who cycle there is just one woman doing the same. In study of why women don’t bike, women cited safety as major concern; both being hits by cars and where bike lanes/pathways are located. Another reason cited for this gap was the inability to bring children or cargo.
Given that women continue to carry the bulk of childcare and household responsibilities, how and where cycling infrastructure is built has a strong impact on whether women will use it.
We also fully support the idea of transit villages. How these hubs and other transit links are built will impact how and if women use them. Women tend to multi-trip when using transit; they stop and pick up things along the way instead of going point to point and are more likely to have children with them.
Where and how transit is designed needs to incorporate the needs and realities of women’s lives and it can’t be assumed that they are the same as men’s needs. The process needs to be deliberate.
The London Plan: We Need a Gendered Lens
Women and Politics supports the London Plan. But we do think that the perspective of gender has not been included in the strategy and directions of the plan and that this is an oversight. The potential for the London Plan to enhance the lives of all residents of London is huge, but we need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of women and men.