Gender equality in Canadian politics.

Author:Mckay-Panos, Linda

There is a long-standing concern about the under-representation of women (and minorities) in our political system. There are several theories about why these groups are not reflected in politics in ways that represent their numbers in Canada. The issue has been recognized, and recently, a proposed amendment was introduced in Parliament and received second reading: Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity)(First Session, Forty-second Parliament, 64-65 Elizabeth II, 2015-2016). Will this proposed amendment, if implemented, actually result in any change in the gender balance in Parliament?

An American study, "Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young Americans' Political Ambition" (J. Lawless and R. Fox, American University, School of Public Affairs, 2013; online:, cites five reasons why there is a difference between the number of men and women who enter politics. These include:

* Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning;

* Boys are more likely than girls to have been socialized by their parents to think about a career in politics;

* Young women tend to be exposed 'to less political information and discussion' than are young men;

*Young women generally get less encouragement to run for office than young men do; and

* Young women consequently are less likely to think they will be qualified to run for office, 'even in the not-so-near future'.

At the same time, the problem of lack of gender equity in Canada does not appear to be the result of prejudice among the electorate (CBC News, "50% population, 25% representation: Why the parliamentary gender gap?" online:"CBC News")). The presence of sexual harassment, lack of civility, attention to appearance, speaking style or personal lives, and the male-dominated political culture in Parliament may be a deterrent to some women (CBC News). The older democracies in the world seem to move more slowly towards gender equity than newer democracies, because they are tied to old conventions (CBC News). Finally, there appears to be discrimination by parties in the nomination process (CBC News).

What potential difference will result from greater inclusion of women in politics? Coupled with accountability mechanisms, the inclusion of women in politics would result in differences in the...

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