Lady political participation

Despite progress in female political engagement there is still a ways to go, said a leading expert in the field. Sylvia Bashevkin spoke at the University of Calgary on Fri., Oct. 9, about how the academic study of women in politics has developed over time.

Bashevkin is a professor at the University of Toronto, principal of University College, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and author of numerous books.

The talk began with a brief history of scholarship in the field of women and politics and then moved into discussion of current research direction.

“A considerable body of scholarship exists today that did not exist in earlier decades,” said Bashevkin. “The empirical gender and politics field has made progress, but not enough. Large stretches of terrain remain under-explored, notably with reference to Canada. To a large extent, we are in the curious position of seeing that the more we know, the less we know.

“Among the major organizing themes in this literature was how more women could be elected to public office, what relationship existed between elected women and women in the general population, and the impact of party quotas on female political participation. Thirty years later, much of the research in this area continues to pivot around questions of representation.”

Common areas of research, she said, are how women vote, which parties field the most female candidates and where, and how policy debates on women’s issues unfolded.

“Parties of the left also appeared more willing to experiment with formal methods for including more women as party convention delegates, legislative candidates and so on,” said Bashevkin. “If the federal, B.C. and Ont. NDP organizations have been at the forefront of quota strategies, what has been the impact on the gender composition of party caucuses, the nature of party policies, the effectiveness of party mobilization of women voters and the dynamics of party strength between elections.”

Bashevkin said there is a lack of research about women in appointed offices, specifically in the judiciary and foreign affairs. She asked whether research in this area would reflect the general trends in participation seen in elected offices.