Public spaces in cities, as they are now structured, can oftentimes be sites of exclusion. The majority of planning and decision-making power in cities across Canada has traditionally been in the hands of white, cisgendered men - and it shows. From impractical transit planning, to lack of public washrooms in cities, to a dearth of affordable childcare centres, to snowplow scheduling - cities as they are planned now leave many people – particularly women - behind.
As Andrea DelZotto, Director and EVO, Community Development at Tridel and panelist for the upcoming session FeminiCITY at Future Cities Canada: #Unexpected Solutions, notes, “when you fail to plan for gender in public space, or cities at large, you fail to plan for half the population. Unplanned urban living is what creates vulnerabilities.”
Of course, shifting demographics in our cities have ushered in some changes that do account for gender when planning public spaces. A recent example are interventions like that from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) when in 2018, the TTC introduced the two-hour transit pass system to allow for pit stops at no extra cost. This change came after they studied the travel patterns by gender and discovered that the 60 per cent of their ridership identified as women and used transit in a markedly different way (hopping on and off to run errands) than male-identified users, who typically only used the TTC to commute in a linear fashion.
Yet - despite some notable progress - the current pandemic has laid bare the fault lines that lay below the spectrum of gender, class and racial experiences in cities. When we collectively build back and rethink our cities, we need to do a far better job to build inclusive, resilient cities where all can thrive.
DelZotto adds that, “Cities have the ability to solve for gender inequalities, among many other systemic flaws that mitigate safety, inclusion and opportunity. A feminist approach to urban planning includes a gender perspective that reduces and ideally, eliminates these. It must be at the heart of our urban agenda.”
For FeminiCITY, DelZotto is joined by panelists Joy Bailey-Bryant, Vice President and Managing Director, U.S., Lord Cultural Resources; Leslie Woo, CEO, CivicAction; Latoya Nelson-Kamdang, Head of Moody Nolan Architects. The session, moderated by Orit Sarfaty, Evergreen’s Chief Program Officer, showcases the moment we are in - a powerful crossroads - where city builders in both the private and public sector have access to the technology and the will to make different choices and find creative, and sometimes unexpected, solutions to these issues.
"When there is inclusive planning [we create] something that is greater than the sum of its parts (…) The result is greater mutual understanding and the creation of what community really is,” notes Sarfaty.