Following the 2015 Federal Election in Canada, we had a record number of 88 women being elected to the House of Commons, 54 of them being elected for the very first time. While this is an excellent number, and record-breaking, only 26% of the seats in the House of Commons are filled by women.
Following the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that he would have a gender balanced cabinet, one of the firsts in history. When questioned about why it’s important to have a gender balanced cabinet, the savvy Prime Minister responded with 3 words: Because it’s 2015.
We’ve come along way from 1921 when Agnes MacPhail was first elected to the House of Commons, the first Canadian women to ever do so. Despite this, we still don’t have too many women involved in politics. In countries like Canada and the United States, people are not opposed to having female politicians but despite this, we are still lacking women in our political process.
The question is why?
At a young age, we obviously depend on our parents and other figures to guide us through life and the process of growing up. So it’s a huge concern when boys are more encouraged by their parents or their peers to consider a career in politics, simply because our parents and our peers are used to seeing male figures as leaders, be it in a family or in a nation. As a result, they tend to see young men taking the place of the older generation in politics. Because of this, we tend to view the world in a male dominated sense and as such, we view young men as the torch bearers of the future. This kind of sexist mindset that we often see within our society teaches young girls that participating and discussing politics is not their place, therefore they should keep quiet on these topics.
However, another pressing reason is the fact that a career in politics does not guarantee stability. A career in politics is a career where you have to reapply for the position every 4 to 5 years and it doesn’t help that the people who hire you in the first place can turn their back on you with every negative article from the press. With the threat of losing your seat in Parliament or Congress every few years, the idea of a career in politics seems intimidating for many, but especially for the average mother who needs to take care of their children. It’s human nature to favor stability and naturally, many of us tend to not take too many risks. However, for a young mother with children to feed and the need for a roof over her head, a career in politics might not be a risk worth taking from her perspective.
Additionally, a career in the public eye, such as politics requires that your every move is scrutinized by the press. However, for women, the press is more focused on scrutinizing their fashion choices rather than their voting record or proposed bills. Politicians, in general, have to deal with the press smearing their image, and in many cases rightfully so, but female politicians, in particular, have to deal with the press scrutinizing trivial matters, such as their choice of clothing. Let’s be honest here, most of us witnessed the press analyze Hillary Clinton’s choice of pantsuit rather than her policies during the 2016 Presidential Election. That and emails.
In addition to the fact that women aren’t often encouraged to work in politics by their peers, due to the fact that politics isn’t always a stable career and the fact that the media tends to not take female politicians very seriously, women tend to avoid politics altogether. This is incredibly problematic, but on the bright side, things seem to be improving. Slowly.
Back in January, President Donald Trump made international headlines when he signed an executive order banning federal money going to international groups that perform and provide information on abortion. Most notable was the viral photo that accompanied the announcement. Donald Trump, sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, surrounded by a group of old, white, men. Despite the fact that this executive order falls under the concern of women, not a single one was in sight at the time the executive order was signed. This is a prime example of why we need women in politics. This is why we need young, engaged women to stand up for what they believe in despite the glaring stares of the men in the room.
Some men will always try to make decisions for women, whether it’s on healthcare, education and even maternal leave. However, women are able to fully understand the true impact of these policies, especially because these policies will affect them directly. Less than 100 years ago, women in Canada were not even considered as ‘persons’ under the law. Women in North America weren’t a significant part of the workforce until the 60’s and even then, workplace harassment continues to be an issue. It took women so long to gain rights that are now considered to be natural. If we slowly allow certain ignorant male politicians to take bits and pieces of that away from us, eventually we’ll be back at square one.
So, to the women reading this article – whether you’re 12 or 21, it’s never too early or too late to consider what impact you want to have in your country, in this world. Like the generations before us, it is our responsibility to build a better and brighter world. Find the bursting courage inside you and do whatever you can to leave your footsteps behind. But most importantly, don’t let anyone- not any man, or the media- take that courage away from you.