EV SPEAKS OUT
Equal Voice invites you to Be her. Support her. Celebrate her.

 

Welcome Aboard, Scott Gilmore

Dec 01, 2014

 

 

A Response to Scott Gilmore: Women Need to Step Up (as published in Macleans Magazine on November 28th 2014) 

 

Dear Scott:

 

Let’s just get this out of the way. We totally agree. The significant deficit of women in political office at all levels of government (as outlined by your article in this week's edition of Macleans) is, quite simply, tragic in this day and age. We must do better – and we’re glad you’re bothered enough to write about it. 

 

Canada ranks 55th in the world for its representation of women in a national Parliament. Mexico, Mozambique, Spain, Iraq and Honduras all do significantly better than Canada. 

 

In order to change this, absolutely far more women need to run - and we all know it. And it is the one thing that Equal Voice encourages more women to consider every day.  

 

But encouragement, while powerful, is simply not sufficient. It is why EV has committed to identify and equip 5000 women over the next three to five years so that more women are ready and willing to run. 

 

So, we have a challenge for you.  As a well-placed and articulate male leader, join us.  Now. Here’s how.

 

You ARE part of the solution

 

In your article, you say that it is only women who can change the political landscape. Not true. Men like you, and those in your networks, represent enormous potential for all those would be women candidates. How so, you say?

 

First:  We invite you and other men committed to the cause to reach out to several women who you respect and admire – and tell them why they need to run. Do this repeatedly and, then, back them by championing them within your professional and personal networks. Far too many women spend too much time quietly nurturing their ambition - forfeiting opportunities that may be available to them.  By encouraging and championing women you respect to become the candidate, more women will run. 

 

Need an example? The late Hon. Jim Flaherty. A political dynamo, he has left a legacy of several impressive women who were elected with his support and guidance.  And we’re not just speaking of Christine Elliott. The Hon. Kellie Leitch as well as MP Stella Ambler were partly motivated to run because of his conviction that they deserved a place at the political table.  Explicit encouragement from established politicians can make a significant difference.  And we’d like to see the seventy five percent of male MPs currently in the House do far more of it.

 

Second: Become a member of Equal Voice today and encourage your male (and female) friends and colleagues to do the same .  Equal Voice is a national multi-partisan organization that brings Canadians from across the political spectrum to support women in their goal. We encourage, equip and celebrate women who run. 

 

Third: Work with Equal Voice to triple our corporate sponsorships over the next year so that Equal Voice can reach our goal of equipping 5000 women.  

 

And now let’s get to the other matters you raised. 

 

"Build your networks, baby" 

 

Scott, if you haven’t seen a woman building her networks recently (and we know you have), it’s time for a refresher. Women are effective, creative and efficient in building them – creating and sustaining connections amid often crushing work and family schedules. 

 

It’s more a question of who comes on board.  Networks are about power and the shade of women and men’s networks varies according to the individual’s social location. No question, many women’s networks run deep in a community by virtue of their involvement in their kids’ schools and sports teams – not to mention all the networking that happens at book clubs or via social media.  But while this kind of reach is valuable, it doesn’t translate into the kind of power brokering that transpires behind closed doors within a riding association, for example. 

 

It is precisely this backroom party brokering, conducted among a few individuals, often predominantly male, that can determine conditions for a nomination race that may (subtly) favour one candidate over another. Not to mention candidate search committees that overlook some outstanding women altogether, regardless of the networking done beforehand.  

 

A 2010 study of the composition of riding associations in Canada found that the more women on a riding association, the better the association’s performance in recruiting female candidates. Why? Because the women actively reached out to women.  So, apart from women actually running, having more individuals on the riding association who support recruiting a diversity of candidate may help turn the tide. 

 

"Ask and It Shall Be Given"

 

There is no question that asking for money is a learned art and it comes easier to some than it does to others.  But there is also the matter of most women’s location within the networks from which they may be seeking funds.  For example, in the legal profession where few women are made partner, their peers are not likely to have the same capacity to donate as their well-heeled colleagues in the same office.  And while many smaller donations can compensate for a few big ones, fundraising - as you know more than most - is about having the time to cultivate relationships that matter.  Time that women often don’t always have.  So let’s get to that. 

 

Time is Money

 

The overwhelming majority of women seeking office do so while also working part or full time – all the while bearing responsibility for some amount of care-giving within their family, whether it be kids, aging parents or a combination of both.  The option to step out of the workforce or drop one’s care-giving responsibilities to mount a campaign, particularly in the lead up to a nomination or the pre-writ stages, is available to very few women.   Take some time off, you might say, if you really want to win this thing.  And if you can’t, you don’t want it that badly.  

 

Not so. In some workplaces, that is simply not an option unless you run the show, work for yourself, or happen to be in a profession that supports your entry into the democratic process.  Need a run down on who precisely is running things these days?  Check out Catalyst’s latest efforts to remedy the 15 percent of women serving on corporate boards. Further, while women have enjoyed significant success in occupying senior management roles in the federal and provincial public services, it is precisely the one place where running for office can create significant complications and in some cases is not allowed.   

 

On top of this, women’s economic earning power pales in comparison to most men, even among women and men with the same academic and professional achievements.  Of course, in Canada, we are fortunate to not need access to millions to run.  But you do need to be economically comfortable yourself – or be able access to the economically advantaged in your community. 

 

You've Got Talent 

 

But, as you say, much of this can be overcome through talent, persistence and tenacity. The reality is, however, that if those things alone were enough, Canada wouldn’t rank 55th in the world. We’d be in the top ten.   

 

That's why having more men actively supporting women is so crucial.

 

And that's why we’re so glad you’re on board. 

 

Equal Voice/À voix égales

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Thanks also to the Government of Canada (Status of Women & Canadian Heritage) for their financial support.