Romance is big business in Alberta
But it's a shortage of men that's the problem
by Alberta Venture Staff
About a year ago, Shawna Dirksen launched Wundermeet, a matchmaking company in Edmonton. But she found something she did not expect. “We had clients who were getting that first date, online or otherwise, who were just unable to get that second or third date, and wondering what was happening,” Dirksen says. So, she began offering date coaching. “It’s like a personal trainer, only for dating,” she says. Prices start at $499 for women and $599 for men, while base matchmaking services start at $899. Yet what might surprise you is the gender of the majority of Dirksen’s date-coaching customers: female.
Alberta has great economic indicators to fuel a thriving love industry– the highest per-capita disposable income in Canada, at $38,761 (with a lot of those disposable incomes earned by young, single men). And, hovering near 36 years in Edmonton and Calgary, the province’s median age is low compared to most cities in Canada.
But there are some strange anomalies to Alberta’s love scene. Unlike any other province, men outnumber women in Alberta. In Fort McMurray, which the National Post describes as “the manliest city” in Canada, some estimate the population breakdown is 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female. Unsurprisingly, it’s hard for men there to meet single women, and, due to the fertile market, the yellow pages in Fort McMurray are overrun with escort service ads.
Alberta’s biggest cities certainly aren’t that extreme but, at 49.2 and 49.1 per cent, respectively, Edmonton and Calgary have the lowest percentage of women of any major Canadian city; indeed, Calgary and Edmonton are the only big cities in Canada with fewer women than men. A surplus of women and a shortage of men should be ingredients for women having their pick of dudes. And yet, Dirksen and others say they are not seeing that in Edmonton. “It’s not what we expected at all,” she says.
What gives? We tried to find answers.
Number of available men per 100 available women
Where are the men?
Last year, Sam Singh, a 37-year-old Edmontonian, co-founded Troop of Foxes, a speed-dating group aimed at Edmonton’s growing urban, under-40 demographic. What Singh and his partners did not expect, however, was their gender challenges. “Everyone was surprised we had so much trouble finding male daters, not women,” Singh says.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 national census, single men in their 20s outnumber single women of a similar age. The crossover point comes in the mid-30s; from then on, single women outnumber single men. Many factors contribute to this reality. Still, the census shows that in most Albertan cities, the total number of single men outnumbers single women (see map and graph).
Why so few men, then? Dirksen and Singh’s findings are not definitive – they represent the gender choosing to use dating services. Still, why would women need those services if there are plenty of men to choose from?
Dirksen says women work to find the “right” guy. For men, “The attitude seems to be that if they can just meet more women, everything will work out. It’s about volume for them.”
“I find it hard to meet men in Edmonton,” says Jill, a single woman in her mid-30s. She says her problem is partly created by a lack of men, and partly by a lack of what she calls “quality.” “I’m sad to say the Alberta Male, who can certainly be kind hearted and good looking, lacks the worldliness and culture I so desire,” she says. “I have yet to find a man here that appreciates femininity in a way that benefits both romantic partners.”
Alberta Love, Inc
A recent BMO study found that Albertans spend an average of $24,360 on a wedding, compared to $8,500 in Quebec. Alberta’s tally is a country-leading $211 per guest. “Nowadays the weddings are smaller in size but they’re spending the same amount,” says Lisa Vettese, with the Bridal Group of Companies, in Calgary. “They’re spending more on catering and experience for the guest.” When adding the honeymoon, the average spend on a wedding in Alberta is $28,000, Vettese says.