With Christy Clark’s swearing in as the B.C. Premier this week, Canada now has three women at the helm from coast-to-coast-to-coast. (Clark joins Newfoundland and Labrador’s Kathy Dunderdale and Nunavut’s Eva Aariak.) But should we be excited to have a whopping three female premiers out of 12? GGC Member Sarah Frey recently attended Equal Voice’s national summit in Ottawa – Leveraging Women’s Leadership for the 21st Century: Changing the Game and gives us the scoop:
As a group dedicated to getting more women elected in Canada, Equal Voice’s summit addressed a number of questions and ongoing conflicts within the scope of Canadian politics. However, the theme of female representation (or is that under-representation?) within the House of Commons clearly dominated the afternoon. According to conference moderator Chi Nguyen, “female representation within the house is still on an 18 year plateau of 22.4%.” One of the reasons the numbers remain so low is the lack of support and encouragement given to young women who want to enter a career in politics. The role of a politician is viewed as ugly and petty. The behaviour within the House of Commons and the daily struggle that a politician must endure is still viewed as – dare I say – not suitable for a woman. (Fortunately, as noted by guest speaker Jennifer Lawless, the head of the Women and Politics Institute of American University, “The good news is that women, especially young women, represent everything that is not common in politics.”)
Like many girls before me, I too dreamt of one day becoming Prime Minister of Canada. Unfortunately, too many passionate, strong, intelligent young girls are being discouraged from ever achieving that. We are told that it’s not a “respectable” career and the fear of becoming corrupt or how we will be viewed in the public eye is evidently scaring off more women than men from running for office.
So, how do we increase female representation in Parliament to 50 per cent? Quite simply put, the most significant action that can be taken is stimulating the political education and political encouragement in our girls and teenagers. We need to actively involve our girls in politics. Talk to them about current events and ask them what they think about issues happening in Canada and the world. Next election, bring your daughter or a friend’s daughter with you to vote. Most importantly, we need to actively remind ourselves to remove the social stigma of a political career and support our girls involved with politics.
Often in my studies, the subject matter can become rather bland. I must analyze and compare ideas and events that are often older than the bindings on my library books. Attending this conference, listening to such amazing women, and physically participating in achieving something good and right, brought my subject back to life. It stirred the passion for politics and feminism that everyone in the room shared. Most of all it reminded me of my responsibility to all the girls and young women I encounter in Guiding to remind them of their intellect, and their power. It reminded me that it is my responsibility to remind them that they can truly accomplish anything they dream.
By Guest Blogger: Sarah Frey. Sarah is a Girl Guide leader and political science student at the University of Ottawa.
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Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of a girl being discouraged from politics, or science, or engineering or journalism. Quite the opposite in fact. I think most educated girls make choices for themselves and their family and it’s not always the choice that looks good by the numbers.
There is a give and take for every career choice. By all means, girls should be encouraged to make a difference by going into politics. But if it’s not their dream, then I’m ok with that to.
The catch is, are we going to encourage our sons to become stay at home dads and raise the status and value of being parents, volunteers, and service workers? These rolls still need to be filled and both girls and boys need to know that whatever they decide is good for them, it is accepted and valued by society just as much as a career with a title.
We can all make a difference and if that difference includes politics then “you go girl!”