Equal Voice says it’s time to focus on getting women on the ballot
By Raylene Lang-Dion
and Nancy Peckford
Just last week, over a cup of coffee, a cabinet minister — whose provincial government is led by a woman — shed some interesting light on why he thinks electing more women is important. Yes, it is part of a healthy democracy. And yes, the fact that women are the majority compels us to ensure they have an equal voice at the political decision-making. But he also said that women bring a different style to politics — a style that is more inclusive, more consensual and more apt to get things done.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to validate his theory in Newfoundland. At least not yet. Tuesday’s municipal election elected an all-male council in its largest city, and several other communities have no or extremely few women on their newly elected council. At the same time, we know that a number of women made important breakthroughs in rural communities in the province. Branch, notably, elected an all-women council.
At this juncture in Canadian politics, when more women leaders and premiers, are getting elected than ever before — municipally, provincially and federally — St. John’s election results, in particular, are head-scratchingly difficult to understand.
In 2010, Newfoundland was one of the first provinces to elect a female premier. National polling for Equal Voice shows that nearly every Canadian wants more women politicians. International articles on women’s leadership in the public and private sector are at an all-time high.
So, while we are disappointed with the outcome of Tuesday’s election results, tomorrow is another day that starts with providing more women with the tangible skills, confidence and focus to run. Then the conversations and the outreach required to make it happen must start — well in advance of any election, so that, four years from now, we see far more women’s names on the ballots.
There have been many, many studies about the challenges women face when seeking elected office, so we know what we are up against. In particular, many women find themselves already over-taxed with work and family obligations, in addition to volunteer activities in their communities.
However, we also know that women can easily translate their skills to a campaign context and that when they do run, they meet with success. Women benefit from being actively asked to run — repeatedly — by their colleagues and their friends. They also want specific information and focused training to take the mystery out of how to get elected and what that process involves. We have also seen how women embrace the chance to speak and learn from other women.
As Equal Voice starts putting the pieces in place to do just this, we are asking you, as a man or woman, to join us in our new campaign, Be Her. Support Her. And Celebrate Her. The campaign is designed to renew the dialogue in communities across the country about how we can get more women elected, so that our six female premiers do not become an anomaly but instead the norm in terms of what we expect from politics — at every level.
We invite hundreds of you in the province to engage with us in this work. Because we know that if you can’t “be her” as a candidate, then you can certainly “support her” so that she can get elected. And together, we can celebrate those victories.
Join Equal Voice Newfoundland and Labrador by contacting EV at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raylene Lang-Dion, Equal Voice’s national chair, and Nancy Peckford, executive director, of Equal Voice: Electing More Women in Canada, both hail from Newfoundland and Labrador.