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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

A Woman's Place

Magazine Survey Rates Thousand Oaks Among Nation's Most Female-Friendly Cities

October 09, 1998|NICK GREEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — Annually touted as one of the safest cities in the nation, Thousand Oaks has now been identified as one of the most female-friendly places in America.

The survey, which measured crime rates, the salary gap between the sexes and the availability of meaningful work--as well as more questionable categories such as the number of good-hair days--ranked Thousand Oaks in seventh place, up from 30th last year. Placing first in the survey in the November issue of Ladies Home Journal is Ann Arbor, Mich.

While the city scored high in categories important to working women as well as those who have chosen to stay home and raise a family, it was Thousand Oaks' fifth-place finish in the so-called "beauty spots" index that earned it the highest ranking among all California cities. The analysis, which wobbles between whimsical and serious, singles out the fitness level of the population. It notes that the body mass index--a measure of body fat--of the average Thousand Oaks woman is a toned 23.39.

"That's no accident, since they also work out more than 12 days a month, no doubt taking advantage of the hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains," the magazine says, adding that the survey is based upon data collected from federal, state and local sources.

"Oh my gosh, our male population is about to increase," said Councilwoman Elois Zeanah, upon hearing the survey results.

The survey, sandwiched between such articles as "Why'd I Marry Him Anyway?" and "The Kitchen Women Really Want," lauds Thousand Oaks for other qualities as well.

In the eight major categories used to compile the ratings and weighted to reflect the interests of the magazine's readership, Thousand Oaks scored a perfect 100 in the most important category--crime. Last May the FBI named the city the safest in the nation among communities with a population greater than 100,000, a distinction either Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley has earned in seven of the last 10 years.

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The city also scored in the 87th percentile in the jobs category, the second most-heavily weighted category, which took into account such things as women's income and the number of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

In terms of quality of life, Thousand Oaks finished as the sixth most tranquil large city in the nation in the magazine's stress rankings--just behind Sioux Falls, S.D. and ahead of Stamford, Conn. The stress index was based on such factors as frequency of divorce, the average commute to work and the amount of violent crime, especially rape.

"Women look for an environment that has strong family values and good schools, and that's what I'm hearing from this," said Zeanah, who was pleased to hear the city also won kudos in the survey for the prevalence of women in leadership roles in local government.

"Women are known for their nurturing attitudes and skills, so maybe the leadership of women is translating," she said. "My concern is that we keep this ranking. . . . This is paradise, and we need to do everything we can to make sure we keep this as one of the best cities that is livable and likable for women."

Thousand Oaks pulled in its lowest score for education, finishing in the 21st percentile. The category analyzes the high school graduation rate, per-student spending and educational standards as judged by the American Federation of Teachers, said Margot Gilman, the magazine's lifestyle editor.

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"The reason we do this survey is not so everybody is going to say, 'OK, I'm going to pack up and move to Thousand Oaks,' " she said. "People read stories like this to compare where they live . . . to find out what there is to celebrate where you live or to understand the areas that might need some fixing."

Among other county cities, only Oxnard placed in the top 200, finishing 168th, although Santa Clarita, just across the Los Angeles County line, came in 11th overall. Ann Arbor topped the list because of the ready availability of child care and the number of women in government.

The survey even rated humidity and dew, since they can affect the frequency of those dreaded bad-hair days.

Amy Schoer, a personal trainer at Teague's Sport and Fitness Institute in Thousand Oaks, said she believes the results. "I see people constantly asking and talking about fitness," she said.

However, Thousand Oaks finished only about midway in the romance ranking, which includes everything from the availability of fresh-cut flowers to how much wining and dining is done.

Some women contend that the family-oriented nature of the city may have contributed to the low marks.

"Everybody's married, that's probably why," said trainer Donna Meehan. "The city closes down at 9 p.m."

Times Community News reporter Jennifer Hamm contributed to this story.

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