Community Engagement Learning with Women & Politics – Part II
In the Fall of 2014 Women & Politics was fortunate enough to work as a community partner with the Community Engaged Learning Program at Western University. We had 4 women students from the course, Interest Groups and Social Movements, who did some background research for our organization related to women and politics. The students’ research provided some data and evidence that will inform the direction of our work in regards to encouraging more women to get involved in politics. The areas that the students looked at in their research were: soft entry points for women hoping to get involved in politics, barriers that exist that prevent women from entering politics, best practices from organizations with similar goals to Women & Politics, and lastly government policies that facilitate women’s participation in politics.
You can access the student’s full report here but we are going to provide a brief summary of each of the areas of research. Their research is in no way an exhaustive search of the literature, similar organizations or government policy, but it does provide some evidence for the work and future direction of Women & Politics.
Section II: Barriers to Women Entering Politics
This section of the report examines the potential reasons why women hold significantly smaller numbers of elected office than men. In particular, this section will assess the entry barriers that make it more challenging for women to not only choose to run but also to win the election.
One significant barrier is gender biases in politics that are driven by the media.
A report by Joanna Everett, who studies media and gender in Canada, concludes that males have fewer sex-typed images related to them.
Political newsrooms are often male dominated and therefore, political reporting often employs a masculine narrative, which reinforces the concept that politics is for men.
Societal definitions of leadership are often masculine. Therefore, it seems unnatural to have women in these positions of leadership.
Another is that the first-past-the-post electoral system actually discourages the election of women.
In countries that have adopted a list system of proportional representation such as Sweden, there are more women elected in political office. In Sweden there are nine seats per region, therefore there is less competition and political parties are therefore more thoughtful in how they choose who will represent each seat.
The First Past the Post System that is used in Canada breeds stiffer competition and a competitive candidate is often someone who significant political knowledge, has significant political/social capital and resources to make their name known. Candidates with this criteria are often male.
According to Cool, there is not enough political appetite to change the electoral system in Canada nor is there much appetite to make nomination lists within ridings more gender balanced.
What this means for Women & Politics?
Women and Politics can will seek to find ways to help women gain the political knowledge and political clout to become more competitive candidates
Women and Politics can potentially advocate to association ridings to consider more female during the nomination process.
Women and Politics can assist in creating awareness on how to consume media through a critical gender lens since political journalism is often male dominated and therefore reflects a more male narrative.