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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2002

Survey rates Toledo a woman-friendly place


Toledo is a great city for healthy hair - and teems with business opportunities for women, too, a new study shows.

Ladies' Home Journal, a women's magazine with a paid circulation of 4.1 million, has released its “Best cities for women 2002” report in its April issue. Among 57 big U.S. cities (population 300,000 or greater), Toledo ranked 12th, between Pittsburgh (No. 11) and Washington.

Virginia Beach, Va., was No. 1.

Ohio's other large cities didn't fare as well as Toledo. Columbus was 15th, Cincinnati was 37th, and Cleveland ranked 54th. Among the 143 smaller cities (population under 300,000) rated by the magazine, Dayton was No. 102, and Akron came in at No. 110. Madison, Wis., was No. 1.

Toledo's high marks did not surprise city natives Cathy Solly and Kathy Lee, interviewed as they ate lunch downtown.

“For a bigger city, it's a very nice place to live,” said Ms. Solly, a pension administrator.

“I don't think I'd live anywhere else,” said Ms. Lee, a senior secretary. “I live on the East Side. I love it there.”

The magazine did not survey its readers for the study, but used local, state, and federal government data and did original research, said Margot Gilman, articles editor of Ladies' Home Journal. However, readers were asked to rate the importance of topics such as crime, education, and health.

“Toledo, I can tell you, is doing particularly badly in the crime area [specifically, rape and crimes against women], but in the jobs category ... that's what really brought Toledo up,” Ms. Gilman said. The city ranked 24th in terms of number of women professionals.

“There are plenty of opportunities, but we've got a ways to go on the pay scale,” Ms. Lee said.

“I don't think the pay scale is equal to men,” Ms. Solly agreed.

Quality-of-life issues also boosted the city's rating.“You had good lifestyle scores - commute times, water quality, divorce rates, and access to culture and parks,” Ms. Gilman said. On the downside for unmarried women, Toledo has 91 single men for every 100 single women, ranking the city No. 141 on the eligible-for-dating list.

The magazine's web site, www.lhj.com, contains a fuller report than the magazine itself. The site says this about Toledo:

“With a natural harbor and extensive railroads and highways, Toledo is one of the chief shipping centers on the Great Lakes. Points of interest include the Toledo Museum of Art, a large zoological park, and the Erie Street Market, 112,000-square-foot public market in the city's old warehouse district. The historical Old West End of Toledo has the largest number of restored late Victorian, Edwardian and Arts & Crafts homes in the U.S.”

Ms. Solly agreed with that assessment.

“I think there's a lot to do in the Toledo area, and a lot of nice neighborhoods to raise a family.”

As for the good hair ranking, it seems all those clouds that gather over the city helped us.

“We looked at weather conditions and how they affect hair and skin - clouds, altitude, and pollution,” Ms. Gilman explained. “If you were cloudy, you would have less sun damage, so you'd get better scores. The women of Tucson, they're out of luck.”

But ultimately, Ms. Gilman added, the perception of a city's greatness depends on a person's preferences.

“What makes a city a great place to live depends on what you want. If you're a lover of symphonies, live in a place with a great symphony orchestra.”

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