Maybe the reason women aren’t interested in politics is because there are no women in politics.
I used to be involved. Banging thundersticks together at rallies; distributing lawn signs; organizing fundraisers; signing up my friends and family; managing campaigns. I was a leadership delegate and wrote everything from an anonymous political blog (take that [Margaret Wente](http://www.themarknews.com/articles/1163-do-women-blog-too)) to press releases, householders, [ten-percenters](http://www.themarknews.com/articles/1153-empower-the-house-control-the-executive), letters, Q&As, and SO31s. I did Question Period prep, passionately watched obtuse House of Commons proceedings, and enthusiastically read rules of legislative procedure.
But over the past two years since the last federal election, I’ve become increasingly detached. Tired of the politics, disenchanted by the debates, not clear on how the parties seek to distinguish themselves, having a difficult time rallying behind policy ideas, political philosophies, or leaders.
Is this a case of standard political disengagement or could this be a manifestation of general female malaise with the current political system? Last month, Jane Taber wrote a [piece](http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/women-step-up-to-podium-but-fall-down-in-political-arena/article1483428/) in the Globe and Mail entitled “Women step up to podium but fall down in political arena.” She cited EKOS pollster [Frank Graves](http://www.themarknews.com/authors/785-frank-graves), who wasn’t surprised that women find Stephen Harper to be of a “cranky, old Anglo white male cohort,” but was astonished to find that women aren’t gung ho about the other federal leaders either. Moreover, Graves says he is struck by the pervasive gender gap in Canadian politics.
Why is this? Taber and Graves suggest that the issues dominating the Canadian political arena don’t capture the hearts and minds of Canadian women who, according to Graves, are more interested in social issues, while men are more concerned about taxation and economic matters.
Personally, I find these generalizations hard to swallow. It’s difficult for me to imagine that 51 per cent of any population would be so homogeneous about their choice of issues and interests. As a young professional woman I am naturally concerned about taxation and economic matters. Unbalanced budgets make me nervous. Though affordable daycare may be of concern to me in the future, for now I’d rather focus on the economy.
This brings me to my second point: perhaps the reason that women aren’t interested in politics is that there are no women in politics. Though this seems like an overstatement, Canada currently ranks 49th of all countries worldwide in the percentage of women in the lower or single House of Representatives. We’re behind Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates to name a few.
Why is this important? Because the lack of women representatives in the House sends a subliminal message that parties don’t care about having the wide range of views that women espouse represented in the political dialogue. It implies that parties aren’t really interested in having our voice heard or actively pursuing our interests, ideals, or even our vote.
This isn’t about developing some fancy pink coloured strategy, or making empty promises about the number of women candidates on the ballot in the next election. Rather, it is about truly believing that women should be standing in equal numbers in the House because we are citizens of this country and deserve an equal voice.
If Norway can legislate that the boards of all public companies be made up of at least 50 per cent women (something that other countries are considering), then surely Canada can find a way to welcome and encourage women into the political structure of our country.
Political parties should be looking seriously at why there are so few women in the House and be establishing incentives to get them to run. This shouldn’t be framed as a political manoeuvre, bandied about with press releases, but rather as a wholehearted, honest attempt to recognize and commit to solving fundamental weaknesses in our political system.
This approach might help rejuvenate and engage a new cohort of political volunteers (the lifeblood of any campaign) – and based on the current sentiments of political disenchantment captured in the February EKOS poll, this group is a much needed and untapped resource.