In Canadian politics, there is an obvious male domination and the lack of female representatives compared to other liberal democracies. Thus, the statement that men rule is not an exaggeration but the fact confirming gender inequality, subversion of womens rights, and gender gap in political ambitions. Such situation is favorable for males, but it has the negative effects on females health, work, education, and economic stability. The state of affairs has improved since the past, as women now can be legislators, candidates, and voters. However, their rights are still being regarded from the gender perspective with a common stereotype that females are weak and unable to succeed in certain fields, like politics. Consequently, women are underrepresented in Canadian politics due to the numerous barriers and obstacles to their successful activity in the House of Commons and as provincial legislators, and the absence of the necessary reforms only reinforces this problem.
Womens Place in the House of Commons and Provincial Legislatures
Gender representation is one of the main issues in Canadian politics which provokes many debates and conflicts. The female representation in the House of Commons has increased since the 1921 election, yet political parties cannot achieve gender parity when it comes to candidates. Moreover, the main challenge is not the absence of females in the government, but their invizibilization and instrumentalization as the ways of using them like instruments for gaining power, control, and influence. For example, it is possible to do the intensification of party competition in the House of Commons though paying greater attention to women and gender motivated by political and electoral gain. Such manipulation signifies the existing imbalance between the womens and the mens role in the House of Commons and provincial legislatures.
Another reason that contributes to the lack of female activity in Canadian politics is the gender stereotypes that they are weak, responsible for child caring and household duties, and dependent on men. Such prejudice is reinforced by the attitude of Liberal and Conservative forces towards females and their place in the government. These political parties try to address their electoral campaigns aimed at women voters as a cohesive bloc. It is obvious that gender stereotypes make females the instruments for manipulation in the hands of male politicians. What is more, Thomas and Young (2014) insist that women in politics and electoral freedom are not the achievements of political forces but rather female activists insisting on womens participation in the democratic life of Canada. Canada ranked 47th internationally in a comparison of womens representation in national legislatures. Evidently, this position is not the best, but it shows that some improvements and contributions are done to involve females in Canadian politics.
It is necessary to mention that women are less interested in politics than men despite their participation in the workforce, public life, and education. In fact, survey findings report that females are even less knowledgeable about political forces and parties than males. Therefore, to some extent, women create the political gap themselves providing men with more power, influence, and control. The absence of interest in politics can be explained by the fact that men always remain the majority of political leaders and politicians, and this persuades women that the world of politics is not for them. Consequently, it is one of the factors why women are underrepresented in the government.
Another point worth consideration when discussing the above issue is that women have different political attitudes and priorities that can prevent them from effective collaboration and cooperation with men in the government. Hence, females mainly perform the supportive roles within political parties and work in election offices rather than manage campaigns. It is thus fair to say that women have the partial guilt that they are underrepresented in the government as they fail to demonstrate their leadership skills and show the political initiatives. Males assigned domestic and secretarial roles to females and made them serve and support the former in their political activity. Such operations like organizing meetings, staffing campaign offices, canvassing during elections, and sponsoring events prove that women are now used to their supportive role and underestimate their skills, knowledge, and forces in the sphere of politics.
Legislatures are not race or gender institutions; therefore, females tend to fail to occupy the leading political occupations and undergo biases there. According to Taylor-Robinson (2014), women are underrepresented in the government, but there are still some of them. However, the main challenge is that females from minority groups and from the lower social class are even more underrepresented. Thus, Canadian political system is far from perfection as lawmakers and legislators do not present the interests of all groups of people. Even more disturbing is the fact that the elite women who do participate in the political life of the country may not always support the interests of other women and serve to the needs of society. As the result, the problem of the Canadian government is not only the absence of females in it but also the inability of both male and female politicians to understand other females not involved in the discussed sphere.
Throughout history, women has always been underrepresented group to a certain extent and underwent bias, inequality, discrimination, and improper treatment not only in politics but in other areas. In the past, they had no possibility to participate in democracy, politics, and legal procedures. In fact, it was believed that men and women cannot work in one team and make decisions together as females decisions can lead to the consequences less desirable for the community like males. Such restrictions affected the current representation of females in the government and made Canadas governments unable to function in a democratic, fair, and just manner. Thomas (2013) believes that females belong to a heterogeneous group that has diverse political preferences and opinions. However, as the representation of diversity in politics is difficult or impossible, there not enough women there. There is a chance to achieve equality and harmony in politics if women are more active and presented proportionally in the government.
The Barriers to the Election of More Female MPs
The barriers to the election of more female MPs than females like voters, candidates, and members of parties are numerous, and they are even more significant as the number of places is limited. Womens unwillingness to participate in politics, the party system, political culture, and rules governing campaigns are restraining forces of the increase of female MPs. However, the reasons for the choice of female MPs remain the same: to soften controversial issues and appeal to women voters. For example, Rona Ambrose used women MPs in order to be more successful in the political campaign.
Even though the number of cases of women being selected as MPs is constantly growing, females in politics remain invisible because of the conservative government. Everitt (2016) insists that the structure of the political system is the barrier to womens representation in the government, as even if women are selected as party presidents and party leaders, their success is temporal. Thus, political parties are the obstacle to womens election since they are gatekeepers and prefer to choose men over women in electoral districts.
Electoral laws are among the leading barriers preventing the election of more female MPs as Canada uses a single membership plurality electoral system. In this regard, it is better to use the more proportional electoral system that will provide a greater number of women in elected office. Nonetheless, the changes in electoral laws will not guarantee the gender equality in Canadian Parliament. There is the relationship between electoral laws and the barriers to the election of females, but the probability of womens increase is very little (ONeill &Young, 2010). The improved electoral laws can actually facilitate the introduction of gender quotas for females representation. Furthermore, 64% of Canadians agree that representation of more females in the Parliament is the best way to protect their interests. Thus, gender quotas may find the fertile ground in the political culture of Canada. However, the main challenge on the way to these improvements is that the Canadian political system is rather difficult to change and redesign.
Party gatekeepers create a serious obstacle to the election of more female MPs as they support male candidates instead. The only reason why Liberals give place to women in their campaigns is to gain the communitys loyalty through gender-equity arguments. As for Conservatives, they are more realistic, but their promises regarding gender equality are similar to those of Liberals. Marginal thoughts and statements of party gatekeepers are illusive and unreal, because they do not improve the situation at all. In the House of Commons, both male and female MPs act and speak to support womens issues, but their populism fails to help. Moreover, political culture is another barrier limiting females activity as MPs as it involves populism, marginalizing, and bureaucracy that are hostile to women and their active participation in the political life of Canada.
Party systems is also a restraining force of females representation in the political live of the country. In fact, parties have more influence on the community than individual female politicians, who do not provoke much trust and reliability. Cohesive party system and party discipline in legislative voting restrict the election female MPs. They can prevent women from having a strong impact on the legislative process in Canada and limit the cross-party cooperation of women on gender issues. However, Tremblay (1998) believes that the increase of the number of female MPs can change the situation in Canadian government. Female MPs are attached to these problems and can become the principle proponents of them. However, it is essential for them not only speak about womens issues but actively suggest the effective steps to influence the current state of affairs.
It is necessary to mention that the obstacles to womens political participation also exist at the individual and social levels. Individual-level barriers can be psychological and socioeconomic. The latter is the most challenging as it is often difficult for females to overcome the low levels of earned income. The election to the Parliament of Canada presupposes having personal incomes necessary for promoting the electoral campaign. Sometimes, females incomes are lower than males, so they are unable to compete with them for the place in the government. Psychological barriers are equally important for females political participation, because women have less interest in politics and the lack of political confidence; hence, overcoming these obstacles is difficult for them. Consequently, females need leadership programs to develop political self-confidence and political interest so that they can be on equal terms with males.
Finally, social-community barriers can have a negative influence on the successful political career of female MPs. The community traditionally divides everything into categories of women and men. These social categories further form many stereotypes that contribute to the negative image of a woman, who is active in specific civic, occupational, and political activities. These social stereotypes often make politics a male field tied to competition and power. These masculine features are regarded as something that drives political life of Canada, and female traits are associated with family and household duties. Importantly, women who are MPs, are seen as less feminine than other females and are even considered bad mothers and wives, but they are still regarded as less masculine as other male MPs. In fact, family responsibilities place women in a double bind Hence, female politicians must be successful not only in their civic and political activities but also in their private roles as mother and wife.
Evidently, behavioral expectations and gender perceptions make women be outside of the political pipeline. Moreover, these social stereotypes are reinforced by mass media, community, and male politicians who trivialize and condemn females for any violation of these common prejudices.
Reforms for Making the Political System More Female
It is difficult to make the Canadian political system encouraging and inspiring enough so that more women participate in its operation, because the barriers exist at different levels, including individual, social, and political. However, the implementation of appropriate reforms can change the situation. For example, the reforms in 1916 provided females with the right to vote Modern innovations should touch the status of women in the government with an emphasis on family law, decriminalization of abortion, access to birth control, development of public childcare programs, and employment equity. Reforms should influence the formation of political parties and Canadian parliament, and demand the females presence there on equal terms with males.
It is essential to ensure that reforms are of complex nature, covering parliamentary, electoral, and democratic aspect. Moreover, they should be accompanied by the programs for females development and growth. As mentioned above, the failure of women in the government is in the absence of leadership skills; therefore, leadership programs can help women to be more self-confident and able to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. The changes are necessary for occupational experiences, labor force participation, and educational attainment of females as it is a good way to provoke womens interest in politics as well as the desire to be leaders and rule like men.
Canada is a democratic country, but the legitimacy of its democracy depends on the process of integration of more females in politics. Thus, reforms and changes are necessary at the federal and provincial levels in order to solve the problem of underrepresentation of females in the government. It is important to increase the number of females at all levels to create the competition among them and encourage to become the active participants of the political life in Canada. Electoral reforms will also ensure the presence of females in the discussed field as the conditions of the election will become more favorable for them than before. Finally, the Reform Party should not leg behind Liberals and Conservatives, because it can protect females rights and support them during the electoral campaigns.
In conclusion, women are underrepresented in Canadian politics according to the following reasons: gender stereotypes, low interests of females to politics, different political attitudes and priorities, the absence of gendered and raced institutions, and historical circumstances. Most of these causes are provoked by females indifference and the lack of interest as well as males power and domination in the community. The obstacles to the election of more female MPs exist at the individual, social-community, and political levels. Individual barriers are related to psychological (the lack of political self-confidence) and socioeconomic factors (low income). The political barriers include electoral laws, party gatekeepers, cohesive party system and party discipline. The social-community barriers involve division in the social categories, social stereotypes, behavioral expectations, and gendered perceptions. However, proper reforms can change the situation in the country and introduce more space and opportunities for females the political system. In order to bring the benefits, they should be parliamentary, electoral, and democratic. Furthermore, it is necessary to accompany all the reforms by special programs for women aimed at increasing their political self-confidence and leadership skills necessary in the sphere politics.