Thank you for inviting me here today. My academic specialty is political recruitment, and I publish and advise parties on how to increase women's representation in legislatures. Today I'd like to make three key points about the barriers facing women in politics.
First, I'll talk about the problem. In terms of political representation, Canada is doing comparatively badly.
Second, I'll explain why Canada is doing badly. Party selection processes are the main cause of women's under-representation. There's a misconception that women's under-representation is caused by a lack of supply rather than a lack of demand. The opposite is true. Women do come forward in sufficient numbers, but party selectors and officials disproportionately select men.
Third, I'll tell you how we can improve. Because the problem is more due to demand, demand-side solutions will work best. The biggest difference that the Canadian Parliament can make is by legislating quotas for political parties, meaning that parties would be required to run 40% to 50% women candidates. If this isn't possible, Parliament should financially incentivize parties to run more women candidates. At the very least, Elections Canada must collect more information about nomination races and report this information to Parliament to increase the transparency of these processes and the accountability of political parties.
Point one is that comparatively, Canada is not performing well. Women hold 27% of the seats in the House of Commons. That puts us at 61st place out of 193 countries. As women are 50% of the population, fair selection processes would mean that they would win 50% of the seats. That's 169 seats, 78 seats more than the 91 they currently hold. Why does this happen?
Point two is that party selection processes are the problem. We need to better understand supply and demand. To get elected, women must first get selected as candidates. In 2015 women won 26% of the seats and were 30% of the candidates, a historic high. This means that 67% of the candidates were men. Looking at percentages can be misleading. It leads many to believe that women's under-representation is a problem of supply, but the raw figures tell a different story. Of the 1,792 candidates, 535 were women. We only need to elect 169 women to get sex parity, yet 535 women stood for office. That's a surplus of 366 women.
I want to repeat that: in the last election, we had a surplus of 366 women candidates. That means it's not a supply problem.
These data reflect only one stage of the selection process. Let's dig deeper and look at when people put their names forward to become candidates.
While Elections Canada doesn't collect all the data we need on nomination contests, we can use other academic work to estimate what happens during candidate selection processes. Although we know that some candidates are acclaimed, we also know that local party members vote in contests to select their candidates. Many of you in this room have been through it.
Let's imagine, because we don't have the full data, that two competitors vie for each of the 1,792 candidacies, for a total of 3,584 coming forward in the hopes of getting selected. That's the supply. To repeat, I estimate that about 3,500 people came forward to stand as candidates in the last election, but only 1,792 were selected. That's the selection process. That's what the filtering or winnowing process does. If 30% of those coming forward were women, the supply of women would be over 1,000. That's 1,075 women coming forward when we only need 169 for sex parity, so we have more than enough women coming forward. This should help undermine the idea that supply is the problem.
Of course, what this analysis is missing is the impact that parties play on selection process outcomes—that is, who gets selected as candidates. My own research shows that in some Canadian cases, men are six times more likely to be selected as candidates by party members than are women.
I want that to sink in: men are six times more likely than women to be selected as candidates, and that's when everything is held constant, so again, it's not supply; it's more demand. It really comes down to the will of the parties, regardless of the electoral system that we use. If party leaders want more women candidates, they'll make it happen.
Since the problem of women's under-representation is due more to demand, point three is that we need to consider more fully the demand-sized solutions. In an ideal world, Canada would bring in sex quotas for women, and this is already done in more than 100 countries. For example, some countries entrench reserved seats or legal candidate quotas in their constitutions, while others simply pass new laws.
As Canada is unlikely to change its constitution, changing electoral law would seem to be the most palatable way forward. For example, under Belgian law, parties that fail to run sex-balanced candidate lists are disqualified from participating in the elections. The mildest option is to financially incentivize parties to run more women candidates, as is the case in Ireland and France.
This mildest of measures was rejected by this Parliament in 2016 in the form of Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act. I would strongly advise this committee to revisit the measures proposed in Bill C-237, but if doing that isn't possible, then at the very least empower Elections Canada to compel political parties to provide additional data on candidate selection contests on all those who come forward to stand for selection and on all those who win and on all those who lose so that the two pools can be compared.
More specifically, I recommend that subsection 476.1(1) of the Canada Elections Act be amended to make mandatory the provision of intersectional data on all aspiring contestants who participate in selection contests, including information on sex, gender identification, race, indigenousness, physical ability, sexual orientation, and so on.
Right now you're actually amending the Canada Elections Act through Bill C-76, the elections modernization act, and you can easily make these changes so we can better understand how women fare in selection processes.