Where are the women?

There were only two women out of seven Liberals who ran for leadership of the Ontario party. But one, Kathleen Wynne, won. Photo by Sandra Pupatello, Flickr

There were only two women out of seven Liberals who ran for leadership of the Ontario party. But one, Kathleen Wynne, won. Photo by Sandra Pupatello, Flickr

Some may have recognized the question posed by singer Patrick Juvet many years ago. Well, it seems that part of an answer to that question could be located in political headquarters. More specifically, here in Canada, in the offices reserved for female Premiers. I must be explicit on gender in order to reflect the Canadian reality.

The choice made by members of the Ontario Liberal Party, by opting for Kathleen Wynne as their new leader, means that almost 90 per cent of the total population in Canada is being led, at the provincial level, by a woman. Not a small feat in itself, and one we had to wait a very long time to witness.

Let’s face it, a long road has been travelled since the election of the first woman in the House of Commons, some 90 years ago. For example the 2011 federal election saw a record number of women elected to the House of Commons, amounting to 76 MPs. Yet it’s still but a third of all MPs to sit in the Commons. At least it’s a start.

Attention given to gender parity in parliament composition isn’t anything new. It happens in many other countries as well. There is an organization dedicated to women’s electoral promotion in Canada. In fact, according to the Inter-parliamentary Union, a group affiliated with the United Nations, 20 per cent of all members of parliaments around the world – whether they be lesser chambers such as our House of Commons or higher ones such as our Senate – are women.

However, you might be surprised to learn that Canada is far from making the top of the list in the matter at hand. Our country scores 45th in worldwide ratings. You might be even more surprised to learn that the winning score goes to Rwanda, with 56 per cent of its parliamentary members being women.

It will be interesting to see how these two provincial leaders will fare as they were not duly elected but rather inherited their posts as leaders of their respective parties, as is the case both in Ontario and here in B.C. In B.C., the last time a woman inherited her position as Premier was in 1991 – it was Rita Johnson and she didn’t survive the following general election.

Far from me to suggest that women in B.C. are cursed, but we’ll remember Kim Campbell, another one of our provincial politicians who ravished her party’s leadership position only to bite the dust when it came to the next election .

Let’s bet that Christy Clark has all the intentions in the world to reverse the tendency. We’ll know next May 14th.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that whether they be a man or a woman, government leaders face enormous pressures that are not diminished by the fact that a woman may be in command. As do the majority of our decision-makers, they too must be judged by their results. I can only hope that this mindset will be central to the choices voters will be making.

Translated by Monique Kroeger