64 U.N.B.L.J. 218 (2013)
Barriers to Women's Political Participation in Canada

handle is hein.journals/unblj64 and id is 228 raw text is: BARRIERS TO WOMEN'S POLITICAL
PARTICIPATION IN CANADA
Melanee Thomas
THE CONTINUED UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN CANADIAN POLITICS
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir noted that, among other things, politics has
always been a man's world. ' This statement remains as true today as it was when it
was first published. In all aspects of political leadership - be that in the community,
in advocacy, or in electoral politics - Canadian politics is a man's world. Here, I
outline why this is the case, identifying obstacles to women's political participation
at the individual, social, and political levels. I conclude by examining if targeted
education efforts such as campaign schools can help women overcome these barriers.
It may be tempting to conclude that women have made great political gains
in Canada. More women were elected to the House of Commons in 2011 than ever
before in the past. As of early 2012, women lead six provincial or territorial
governments: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and
Labrador, and Nunavut. However, many of these women are in glass cliff'
circumstances: their party's electoral fortunes have declined to the point where their
re-election prospects are grim.2 Furthermore, these higher profile political events
obscure the dearth of women in politics in Canada. Less than 20 per cent of the
candidates nominated by major parties in 2011 were women; this is much the same
as it was in 1997.3 Stated differently, Canada's political parties nominate and elect
about as many women today as they did fifteen years ago (see Appendix A). And yet,
Canada's international ranking for women's political representation fell from 16th in
*
Melanee Thomas, BA (Lethbridge), MA (Calgary), PhD (McGill), is Assistant Professor at the
Department of Political Science, University of Calgary.
'Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, translated by H.M. Parshley. (New York: Vintage Books, 1989).
2 Research shows that women leaders are often preferred to men only under these precarious
circumstances. See Susanne Bruckmilller and Nyla Branscombe, The glass cliff: When and why women
are selected as leaders in crisis contexts (2010) 49 British Journal of Social Psychology 433.
Elections Canada, Final List of Confirmed Candidates -- 41st General Election (6 June 2011), online:
Elections Canada <http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=ele&dir=pas/41ge/can&document-in
dex&lang=e#complete>; Elections Canada, Thirty-Sixth General Election 1997: Official Voting Results:
Synopsis, Table 10 Number of Candidates by Percentage of Valid Votes Received, by Political Affiliation
(20 July 2010), online: Elections Canada <http://www.elections.calcontent.aspx?section=res&dir-rep/
off/dec3097&document-restablel0&lang=e>; Parliament of Canada, Members of the House of
Commons, (20 February 2012), online: Parliament of Canada <http://www.parl.gc.ca>.

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