By Lauren Rodgers

While women are increasingly becoming more involved in politics, they are still disproportionally represented. An election follow-up event titled “Women and Politics” was hosted at the Grand Hotel in Nanaimo on October 25 that addressed the issue.

The lecture was organized by Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan organization whose mandate is to promote the election of more women to every level of government. Speakers included Grace Lore, a PhD candidate and national board member, and Carolyn Jack, chair of Equal Voice’s BC chapter.

The event strived to educate its attendees on the gender disparity found in Canadian politics. The talk was well-attended, drawing dozens of men and women of varying age groups and stature. Present in the crowd, and eager to share their experience on the topic, were City of Nanaimo past and present councillors Diane Brennan and Diana Johnstone, as well as newly elected MP Sheila Malcolmson.

Equal Voices’ national Board member Grace Lore began the event stating that in this year’s election, there were 11 more women elected than in Canada’s previous federal election. “Due to the seats gained in this election, Canada is now beneath the United Nations’ minimum level of women in government,” she said.

Lore identified two major obstacles, which hinder the quest for gender equality in Canadian government:

  1. There are not enough women running. In this election, the NDP had two times the female candidates than the Conservatives, which created huge disparity in gender representation nationwide. On Vancouver Island, due to the prevalence of the Green Party and the NDP, half of the MPs are women, yet, in regions dominated by other parties, gender inequality in government is much more apparent. Lore stated, “We need more women running for all parties.”
  2. Even when women do run, they aren’t being elected. Lore said the problem isn’t that women can’t get votes, as 80 per cent of Canadians want more women on the ballot, but instead that Canadians need to be more aware of the distribution of political resources. Lore explains that, often due to their historically disadvantaged position in Canadian society, women running for government don’t have the means or the experience essential to establishing an effective campaign.

A reoccurring topic between both Brennan and Johnstone was harassment in the workplace. Politics was described as a balancing act for women, as females involved are constantly stuck in a dichotomy of labels. Women with power are almost always perceived negatively, and consequently labeled as weak, pushy, timid, arrogant, defensive, or passive, for example.

Malcolmson, who has been elected four times locally and once federally, spoke at the end of the event, imploring her audience to get involved and force change in Canadian politics.

To ensure that it doesn’t take the projected 89 years worth of federal elections to reach gender parity in Canadian government, Malcolmson suggested that everyone should pick a party, attend their conferences, and push for proportional representation. She stated that it is up to us, as politically-engaged citizens, to stand up for what’s best for our country, and hold elected representatives accountable.