According to Statistics Canada, women make up slightly more than half of the Canadian population. In 2015 Canadians broke a record. We elected more women to the Canadian House of Commons in history — 26%.
So why is it that we live in a Country that strives to look like the top photo on while our elected officials often look like the bottom photo?
There are a number of historical factors that have left women out of our elected bodies. First, women only started to get the right to vote in Canada around WWI and it took until the 1960’s for indigenous women to gain the right to vote.
In 1957 Ellen Fairclough became the first woman appointed to the Cabinet.
In 1993, Kim Campbell became the first and only woman to serve as Prime Minister by winning the leadership of the governing Progressive Conservatives, but lost the subsequent general election.
Today, not a single women holds the position of premier in any Canadian province or territory — check out No Second Chances to learn more.
Although women have made strides in Canadian federal politics, there is still a long way to go.
In a recent interview, former Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley said that when women lead, you tend to see different priorities on the agenda. She said she doesn’t think that childcare, for example, would have gotten nearly as much attention in Alberta over the last four years had a woman not been premier. Kathleen Wynne has also been quoted saying something similar — but it’s not just about leaders.
Research suggests that when women make up at least 30% of decision making representatives, critical mass is reached and the results reflect that. This is often cited in relation to women on corporate boards, but why would it be any different in our elected bodies?
Further, the United Nations has made equal political representation a priority as a section of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Gender Equality:
“Target 5.5: Ensure full participation in leadership and decision-making
UN definition: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”
Canada is not on track to hit this target so how might we advocate for women in politics across the globe when we’re not there yet?
The reality is women have a different and unique lived experience based on their gender. Women are paid less than men for work of equal value, women experience gender based violence and sexual violence at a staggeringly higher rate than men, and single mothers have the highest overall rate of poverty in Canada — just to name a few key stats. These challenges compound when you consider other identity factors which is referred to intersectionality. That’s why we can’t just advocate for more women to be elected, but rather more people with diverse lived experiences.
What I’ll be watching
The 2019 Federal Election is scheduled to take place on October 21st. Here are things that I’ll be looking for leading up to the election:
How many women are running for each party? We can’t elect 50% women if political parties are not recruiting 50% women to run for them.
What do the political platforms say about women, diversity, and equity?
How is the media covering women who decide to run?
How are parties shining a light on the diverse candidates (without weaponizing them for their own gain)?
Are issues that disproportionately impact women a focus in the national debates?
Me one random day at work looking at the wall of men (AKA the former premiers of New Brunswick)