Women in politics say they face more challenges than male counterparts
With nearly a month until the 2019 Federal Election, politicians are upping their campaign efforts more than ever. However, while campaigning is hard work for anyone, female politicians and those with political experience say women face challenges before they're even nominated.
"It is very hard to get women in those candidate spots to begin with, and that really is on the parties,” says former Nova Scotia MP, Megan Leslie. “Parties need to make a concerted effort if they want to make sure there are women on the ballot and racialized Canadians on the ballot."
However, even when given the opportunity to run and represent their parties, experts say women face challenges at all levels of government.
“It's very different experiences for men and women,” says former Nova Scotia community services minister and Liberal MLA for Dartmouth North, Joanne Bernard. “Women have a harder time raising money, and of course you need to be able to raise money to run a good campaign.”
And it’s not just struggles to finance their campaigns that women in politics face.
“Women also tend to have less social capital in terms of contacts – you need contacts for everything from fundraising to door knocking to volunteer,” says Bernard. “But, in saying that – women get it together and run those campaigns."
Professor of both women's and political sciences at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Meredith Ralston, says the history of politics has been male-dominated – creating a narrow image of what a politician looks like.
“Male is the norm, so women are caught in this double standard that if they act like a man, in terms of being aggressive, then they're called a dirty word,” says Ralston. “If they act like a man in other ways, they're not seemed to be feminine – so they're caught between acting like a politician or acting like a woman."
Ralston also notes the public is generally harder on women in politics.
"Many of the barriers women face right now have to do with the increased scrutiny that women are under generally,” says Ralston. “Women are judged much more harshly on social media – that's really a big complaint that a lot of people have."
Despite the challenges, politicians, such as former Halifax Regional Municipality councilor, Gloria McCluskey, say, candidates, regardless of their identity, first need to build their self-confidence before the public stands behind them.
"I spent 23 and a half years in politics, and I believe that if women are not intimidated by anything around them, then there's no problem," says McCluskey. “Believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, then it's pretty hard to do the job and when you're politicking. Get out and knock on every door – that's the biggest thing."
Canadians will vote for a new government on October 21; and while there may be more challenges facing women running for office, Ralston notes data suggests the electorate themselves are not biassed towards women.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Natasha Pace