Women and gender equity strategy

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Women and Gender Equity

What is it?

In April 2021, the Women and Gender Equity Strategy (WGES) [ 3.95 MB ] was approved by Ottawa City Council. The strategy aims to ensure City services, strategies, and plans integrate a women and gender lens and proactively promote women and gender equity.

Phase 1 of the strategy includes a strategic framework that sets organizational and departmental targets. It defines commitments on women and gender equity for Phase 1 of its implementation (2021–2023).

Watch our video

I'm Theresa Kavanagh. I'm a City Councillor for Bay Ward, but I'm also the Council Liaison on Women and Gender Equity and I am Chair of the Sponsor Group on Women and Gender Equity for the City. My name is Valerie Turner. I'm the General Manager of Innovative Client Services and I joined the City in August of 2019. Hi, my name is Donna Gray and I'm the General Manager of Community and Social Services.

[Theresa Kavanagh] The first thing we had to do was look at ourselves. We had to look internally and there's lots of work to do as an institution as a level of government and we're working on that we're doing analysis on our services. We're working on what we offer and how we can do better.

[Donna Gray] The City has made a corporate commitment to The Women and Gender Equity Strategy which starts with really applying a women and gender equity lens in everything that we do. The Women and Gender Equity Strategy sets up 53 corporate and departmental targets and defines explicit commitments on women and gender equity, for the first phase of this implementation which is really from 2021 to 2022. For example, during this first phase we'll be focusing on some of the most important challenges that women face such as looking at affordable housing and subsidized housing, looking at child care and access to child care and ensuring that women are able to partake in recreation and of of course increasing the representation and inclusivity of women and gender diverse people in our entire workforce, ensuring our City workplaces and facilities are welcome and safe for all gender groups.

[Valerie Turner] The pandemic has heightened the inequalities women face both at work and at home.

[Donna Gray] We've really seen the disproportionate impact COVID has had on women in in our local community and I've seen that impact and have been watching that impact as well in the women in the workplace, who have come to work every day and have had to battle and address the challenges that they faced around child care and elder care and and just trying to manage the pandemic and the pressures of the pandemic.

[Donna Gray] I'd like to thank staff, because staff from across all departments have been consulted and engaged in the creation of this strategy and they'll be on the front lines in its implementation. The newly created Gender and Race Equity Indigenous Relations and Diversity and Inclusion Branch will continue to make a concentrated effort to work across the corporation to support all departments in applying the gender lens to improving policies and according to their own business lines and their services.

[Valerie Turner] This includes increasing the number of staff who are trained on the City's equity and inclusion lens. This is important to help us always operate from a place of empathy, kindness and understanding in our work with the public and with each other by ensuring staff have access to training. It will help build a high level of awareness and understanding of some of the barriers faced by women and gender diverse persons in all aspects of the City's work.

[Donna Gray] An example of a concrete action is to make our facilities more inclusive and safer is adopting universal washrooms. Another is ensuring that equitable access to professional development opportunities for intersectional women so they can take leadership roles at the City and beyond.

[Valerie Turner] Women have experienced and continue to experience barriers in the workplace. As a leader in the organization, I have the privilege of being able to contribute to driving positive change and influencing the culture of the organization and I'm deeply committed to doing so.

[Theresa Kavanagh] So lots happening and I'm really really proud of the work that's happening.

A gender lens

A gender lens is a process of assessing the implications for women and other gender groups of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs and resource allocations in all areas and at all levels.

Intersectionality of women and gender equity

This strategy recognizes that people’s lives are shaped by their multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which, together, can produce a unique and distinct experience for that individual or group. Therefore, strategic priorities and outcomes address the need to meet the unique needs of Indigenous, racialized, older women, immigrant women, and gender diverse persons.

How we developed the strategy

Engagement with community groups, residents and partners played a major role in shaping the priorities of the strategy. The WGES Public Engagement Findings Report [ 544 KB ] and  2SLGBTQ+ Service Needs, Gaps and Recommendations Report [ 2.97 KB ] summarize what we heard during the public consultations.

Our achievements 

Phase 1 of the strategy is underway and focuses on introducing gender-sensitive policy changes in the City’s plans, strategies and services, raising staff awareness on women and gender equity and ensuring that our data is representative of women and gender diverse persons realities.

In the first year of Phase 1 (April 2021 to 2022), the City achieved important targets in its WGES framework including:

  • The City's Official Plan is the first plan to explicitly integrate a gender lens. This achievement will have an important impact on how the City prioritizes the needs of women and gender diverse persons.
  • An 'Indigenous, gender and equity implications section' in reports to Committee and Council is now standard.
  • The LEAD IT Strategic Hiring Process was launched to increase the hiring of candidates from employment equity groups including women. 
  • The City allocated gender-based funding to benefit community organizations serving women and gender diverse persons.
  • 200 gender-inclusive signs were installed in public single-stall washrooms in over 80 City of Ottawa recreation facilities.
  • The City launched the Period Packs project, a pioneer project in which the City addresses period poverty. 

Year 2 of Phase 1 is underway and will be completed in April 2023.  

A mid-term review will be conducted in 2022 to document lessons learned and best practices from the first year of the WGES Phase 1. Findings will contribute to the design of WGES Phase 2. 

WGES Phase 2 City staff and public engagement  

As directed by Council, Phase 2 aims to implement transformative change in partnership with community organizations and develop a robust internal and external Phase II for 2023-2025, building on the successes of Phase 1 (2021-2023). 

 An engagement process took place in the period of April to June 2022 to elicit input from City staff and residents to inform the design of Phase 2 Strategic Framework WGES. 

 The purpose of the Phase 2 engagement was to collect feedback from residents, community stakeholders and City staff on women and gender gaps and service needs. 

Contact us

For more information, email womengenderequity@ottawa.ca.

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