A Woman’s Life in Fort McMurray

We’ve all seen it. That newspaper or magazine exclusive of what it’s like to like in Fort McMurray. The one that paints the city with big burly men with flexed muscles, decked out in Ed Hardy with a stripper on each arm. Publications across North America have taken notice of the boomtown that has formed in Northern Alberta. A lot of money, a lot of men: supposedly 10 men to every 1 woman. But is this an accurate depiction of this city we’ve all heard so much about? Wood Buffalo mayor Melissa Blake disputes it, as do many women living in this booming city. As a matter of fact, Fort McMurray is currently made up of 57% men, to its 43% women, a much more even distribution of the sexes.

In 2012, there was an average of 100 babies born per month in the city of Fort McMurray. In fact just recently the Edmonton Journal spoke about Fort McMurray as “A city of strollers.” Walking through the streets, you’ll see countless moms on a bike ride with their children to the park, or trying to get a squirming toddler in a minivan. This truly is becoming a family town, a town with a huge recreational center, a popular public library, even a YMCA. In the next month alone, residents are preparing for their annual Lights of Christmas and Santa Clause parade, a multicultural festival, a family get together event, municipality sponsored public speaking courses and immigrant women’s group functions. This town is simply so much more than it was 50 years ago. Immigrant families from across the globe are flocking together towards this booming town. It is because of this that there is such a true sense of community in the growing, changing city. Everyone here knows what it’s like to have pact up and moved for the sake of a better life for them and their families.

Jobs are plentiful, for men and women both. These days it is becoming so much more common to see a woman operating heavy machinery, or as a supervisor at an oil rig. Job sites are finally working in a direction toward equality. People here are thirsty to see women in non-traditional roles. Because there are still few women willing to work in the camp sites, the ones who do are reaping the rewards with extremely high pay, and careers advancing at rapid speeds. Not to say things are perfect, camp life is still rough and there are most definitely sites where the demographic is a lot closer to that 10:1 ratio, but everyday more and more women are seeing the value in leaving behind the life they had, and relocating to Fort McMurray.

The idea of packing up and moving to a new city can be daunting, especially a city known for it’s long work hours and camp jobs. Now more than ever though, this truly is a city for all. Skyrocketing wages, jobs galore, and on top of that a remarkable sense of family and community: I don’t know that we can ask much more of a boomtown city.