Bettering the gender balance: Four women on 21st century politics
Published Friday, March 31, 2017 6:35PM ADT Last Updated Friday, March 31, 2017 7:50PM ADT
Katie Davey graduated from university knowing what her next step would be. And she’d never felt more confident.
“It was just the right job, it was the right opportunity, so, I just burst into happy tears,” she said in an interview with CTV News.
Davey was the University of New Brunswick’s student union president, and was graduating with an honours degree in political science.
She had just found out she would soon be the special assistant to the Premier of New Brunswick – the job she cried “happy tears” for.
But two weeks into the job, Davey’s qualifications came under scrutiny.
“A colleague of mind kind of pulled me aside and showed me that some folks were posting negative things about me on Twitter,” she said. “Immediately I just felt really, really sick to my stomach and went back to like, okay, what is the reasons for this? What have I done to deserve this?
The tweets accused Brian Gallant of buying Davey’s support for his Tuition Access Bursary program, by giving her the job.
Some went even further.
“I just had all this self-doubt. It was really, it was just an unfortunately feeling.”
Davey wonders if the same situation would have happened if she was a man.
Liberal MLA and Deputy Speaker Lisa Harris wonders that too.
Harris says there were several times she felt uncomfortable about comments made by members of the legislature while she was in the Speaker’s chair.
“It is lovely to see you in the chair today. My heart always skips a beat,” was one of the comments, she says made her feel uncomfortable.
“It that sexism? Is it because I’m a woman that that’s happening? And I realized that, absolutely it was,” she said.
There was a time when no women walked the halls of power in New Brunswick. Fifty years ago, that changed.
“Here was a female in their lot, you know, and I was supposed to be home doing dishes,” said Brenda Robertson in an interview with CTV News from her home in Riverview, NB.
Robertson was New Brunswick’s first female MLA, and the first female cabinet minister. She also spent 20 years as a senator.
The 87-year-old says things have changed in the legislature since she was there.
“I couldn’t go to the bathroom without them standing outside the door hardly, they were really, some of the men were quite rude,” she said.
At the time, Robertson remembers there was only one bathroom. She had allies, including former Premier Richard Hatfield, who would stand guard outside the door.
But Robertson ignored those who stood in her way.
“Now there’s a few silly men around that think it should be different. But that’s their problem. Not the women’s.”
Challenges women have faced in political life aren’t blue, red, green or orange.
But they can be conquered, according to a veteran MLA.
“We need more women at the table, there’s no doubt,” said Madeleine Dube. “To get there I think we need to do a better job on the ground, in our riding associations and our communities.”
Dube is the longest serving female MLA currently in the legislature and she was the first women elected in her riding. She wants more women to follow in her footsteps.
“We need to make sure that more young women will dream to do that.”
Katie Davey represents the next generation of women in political life. She’s going into it believing what happened to her, will likely happen again.
“If I have to endure some unfortunately comments that many women have to endure far more often than I do, then I’ll do it,” she said.