After having published the results of a survey over happiness in the city in 2013, Lafarge is marking International Women's Day by publishing the results of an unprecedented survey conducted in conjunction with researchers Ipsos / Sopra Steria to examine the relationship between women and cities in five major European centers of Paris, Marseille, Madrid, Warsaw and Krakow.
Because building better cities - the Lafarge ambition - requires detailed knowledge of urban residents, the Group was keen to conduct this survey in order to gain a clearer understanding of how women see their city and their expectations of it. How do women live in the city? How do they feel about themselves in the urban environment? What benefits do they get from city life?
"This survey demonstrates the attachment women have to the city, which is seen as a place of opportunity that facilitates the process of balancing different aspects of their lives. It also identifies their expectations for a better life in the city, including more pleasant and less polluted surroundings, and improved access to efficient transportation. Building cities that offer more housing and are more compact, more durable, more beautiful and better connected is also part of the Lafarge ambition. To ensure that those of us who live in cities feel good about doing so, we are using innovation to identify the most adapted products and solutions as part of our contribution to building better cities," explains Alexandra Rocca, Executive Vice-President Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development at Lafarge.
"We can learn a lot from the results of this survey! The first thing is that the women who live in the major European urban centers surveyed love their cities. But at the same time, they recognize that the city can cause feelings of stress and sometimes insecurity. So what can be done to make their city lives even better? These city dwellers identify a number of different solutions, including several small centers distributed throughout the city, rather than a single city center, for example. They also feel - and this opinion is shared by men - that cities would be better suited to their needs if they had more say in urban design and management," says Federico Vacas, Deputy Head of the Politics and Opinion Department at Ipsos.
Women love cities even more than men do
Nearly 9 out of 10 women (89%) love the city in general terms, which is a slightly higher proportion than for men (84%).
It is because they are engaged on every front and struggle to find the time to balance work, childcare, household tasks and leisure that urban women like the practicality of the city, such as access to healthcare services (94%), employment opportunities (92%), access to public services and banks (90%) and schools (78%).
The practical benefits of the city and close proximity to services are those aspects that French women like best (69% in Paris and 78% in Marseille). Our women citizens in other European countries put more emphasis on access to leisure activities and the diversity of city life; aspects that are more attractive for three-quarters of the women surveyed in Madrid, and more than 60% of their counterparts in Warsaw and Krakow.
Freedom of movement (49%) and easy access to employment (41%) come next in the list of city benefits identified by the women surveyed.
Women see cities as synonymous with opportunity, freedom and self-fulfillment
The city is seen as a place of professional opportunity even more strongly by women (95%) than by men (90%).
Nearly 9 respondents out of 10 (84%) are convinced that women are more likely to achieve self-fulfillment in cities than in rural communities. For example, urban women see the city as offering them more professional opportunities than rural communities in terms of intellectual fulfillment, leisure activities, equal opportunities, freedom and sociability.
This perception varies from city to city: more specifically, women in Paris put greater emphasis on the equal opportunities and freedom offered by their city (86% compared with 78% overall), whereas for their counterparts in Poland, sociability is more important (79% in Warsaw and 83% in Krakow).
But women in cities are battling against the clock
When asked about their relationship to time, it seems that women in cities do not have enough of it. On average across the five cities surveyed, women say that they would need 3 hours 14 minutes more to do everything they want to do (compared with 2 hours 47 minutes for men). This is even more true for women under 35 and those with children, who say they need 3 hours 58 minutes and 3 hours 54 minutes more every day respectively.
Time spent on urban transportation is an important factor here, since urban women spend an average of 1 hour 24 minutes every day travelling in this way.
Stress and insecurity are the two main drawbacks of the city
The positive overall image of the city is qualified by considerations characteristic of urban life: women with a negative view of the city explain their disaffection by referring to insecurity, stress and pollution.
So 79% of those interviewed say that the city is more stressful than it is relaxing. This perception is more marked in Marseille (85%) and Madrid (87%).
The city is also seen as less safe than elsewhere. So walking alone at night is the only area where women do not feel the same level of freedom as men. 80% of women say that walking alone at night is easier for men than for women.
Urban women have many expectations of the city
Although the city is an environment in which women feel good about themselves in general, they believe that it could be better suited to their daily lives. Nearly 4 women out of 5 feel, for example, that cities would be better suited to their lives if they had more say in their design and management.
Women living in the five cities surveyed also have clear opinions about the possible solutions for improving their lives in the urban environment, including less polluted surroundings and better access to transportation. Both men and women then go on to refer to solutions for potential improvements in leisure activities, housing and the physical appearance of the city, all of which are identified as factors for improving their urban daily lives.
In their quest to balance work with family life, urban women are heavily in favor of cities designed with several small centers, rather than a single city center (74% compared with 26%).
The survey was conducted amongst a total sample of 3,015 respondents representative of the population living in each of the five urban centers in terms of gender, age (18+) and geographic distribution. The interviews were conducted between February 9 and 16 this year. 602 people were interviewed in Paris and Warsaw, 603 in Marseille, and 604 in Madrid and Krakow.
Specific results focusing on the five cities surveyed (Paris, Marseille, Madrid, Warsaw and Krakow) are available on request.
A world leader in building materials, Lafarge employs 63,000 people in 61 countries, and posted sales of €12.8 billion in 2014. As a top-ranking player in its Cement, Aggregates and Concrete businesses, it contributes to the construction of cities around the world, through its innovative solutions providing them with more housing and making them more compact, more durable, more beautiful, and better connected. With the world's leading building materials research facility, Lafarge places innovation at the heart of its priorities in order to contribute to more sustainable construction and to better serve architectural creativity.