by Teresa McKeeman, CFUW Member
Women are under-represented at all levels of the political spectrum. Women make up approx. 52% of the population but hold only 25% of the federal seats. In Ontario they fare a little better at 35%; still far below an equal representation. Municipally only 16% of mayors are women and 26% of councillors.
Women face unique barriers both when seeking office and once in elected office that discourage them from becoming candidates. Only two out of ten candidates for office are women. When they do run they tend to win in equal proportion to male candidates. However, at least at the provincial and federal level, incumbents tend to win re-election leaving few seats open for newcomers. Since the current make up of parliament favours males the share of women candidates must exceed that of males in order to make progress towards gender balance.
Women care about different issues. A critical mass of at least 30% elected women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women’s concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business. Only when the demographics in elected positions mirror that of society is a country’s full social capital realized. Diverse representation creates a better environment for women and men.
There is broad public support for increasing the number of women in politics. We don’t need to convince men that women should run. We need to convince women. For this reason in spring of 2017 CFUW Guelph partnered with The Research Shop at the University of Guelph to identify barriers to women’s participation in politics and ways to overcome these barriers. This research paper can be found here. This is why in Guelph-Wellington we are holding a campaign school for women only.