Kudos and Quotas

Editor, the Gauntlet,

[Re: “Where are the FeMLAs?” Editorial, Sep. 19]

I was heartened to see an article about why women do not readily run for public office. It was especially timely because there is no indication women’s representation is going to reach parity any time soon. It may be the case, in fact, that women’s representation will go down slightly in one of the upcoming municipal, provincial or federal elections. This begs the question: what can we do to get more women running for elected office? Changing the behaviour of political parties is critical because parties are the gatekeepers when it comes to nominations and elections to political posts. This is why I did not find Katy Anderson’s criticism of gender quotas to be particularly useful in her editorial last week.

While quotas may insult some women, they are a temporary way to fast-track women’s representation. Waiting for women to achieve political equality will likely take decades because of subtle, yet powerful, forces of exclusion and discrimination, and also because of the seemingly stealth impact of traditional gender roles. Quotas have many forms; they can be enshrined in the constitution, enacted through legislation, or voluntarily put in place by individual political parties. Surprisingly, North America is the only region in the world that has not used some form of gender quotas (yes, even some Arabic countries have quotas). Where quotas have been put in place, democracy has undoubtedly become more just for women. Without quotas then, is it no wonder that Canada has an average women’s representation that does not come close to parity. In most cases, we’re not even halfway there. Quotas are a legitimate means to overcome women’s deficit in elite-level political participation. The possibility of adopting them, however, would be greater if we had stronger support from the women’s movement and a more proportional electoral system.

-Janine Marshall-Giles


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