Home Politics Despite Progress in Gender Parity 50:50 Representation in Parliament Remains Elusive

Despite Progress in Gender Parity 50:50 Representation in Parliament Remains Elusive

Investing in preparing women and girls for leadership roles brings about transformative change say female politicians

by Michael Witkowicz
A group of men and women with masks on sitting in a room.
Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon sits with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the newly announced cabinet following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 in Ottawa. (Source: Hailey Sani via Flickr)

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The true measure of women’s progress in politics will only be achieved when women hold 50 per cent of seats in political institutions, says Peggy Nash, a former NDP Member of Parliament and current chair of the advisory committee at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Centre for Labour Management Relations.

Nash’s comments marking International Women’s Day come at a time when women make up only three in 10 federally elected representatives.  Prime Minister Trudeau, however, has made a point of building gender parity into his Liberal cabinets – in 2023, men represented 51.3 per cent of cabinet members while women comprised 48.7 per cent. That’s up significantly from the past: In 2002, for instance, 75.7 per cent of the cabinet was male while women accounted for 24.3 per cent. 

“The landscape of Canadian politics is evolving,” said Nash, who served as a member of parliament for Parkdale-High Park riding from January 2006 to October 2008, and again from May 2011 to August 2015. “It’s crucial that we continue to empower women to take on leadership roles and drive positive change in our society,” she said in an interview. 

Nash underscored the need for proactive measures to support women’s leadership aspirations. “We need policies that level the playing field and address systemic barriers,” she said.  “From campaign finance reform to childcare support, there are various avenues through which we can empower women to pursue leadership roles.”

Andrea Gunraj, vice-president, public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said women have been important drivers in security advances in childcare policy in Canada. 

“Clear leadership is essential to driving meaningful change,” she asserts. 

Marci Ien, Canada’s minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and a TMU alumna (1991), also pointed to the vital role women play in shaping society. “Every day, women strengthen our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and our country,” the Toronto Centre MP said in a written response to questions from OTR. “They are entrepreneurs, leaders, and advocates who inspire the next generation.” Reflecting on her alma mater, Ien praised the strength and persistence of young women’s voices at colleges and universities across the nation. “These women will run for office, take up space at decision-making tables, and raise their voice in the name of equality,” she said. “They will be the change that Canada needs.”

Reporter, On The Record, Winter 2024

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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