Hello to you all.
I am very pleased to be with you today. We would like to thank you for the invitation and we are extremely pleased to contribute to the reflection on barriers that women face in politics.
As you know, the Conseil du statut de la femme is a government organization that does consultation and carries out studies. Its mission is to advise the minister and the Government of Quebec as well as to inform Quebeckers on everything associated with gender equality. In November 2017, we were invited to take part in an initiative launched by the Commission des relations with Quebeckers. We submitted a brief on the place of women in politics. This brief reiterated the recommendations that our council published in 2015 in a paper entitled “Les femmes en politique: en route vers la parité” [Women in politics: headed towards equality]. If I may, I will go over the major points of this paper and of this document.
In this paper, the council studied the measures that have been adopted in Quebec and elsewhere around the world to increase the presence of women in politics. It also questioned 18 women that were candidates or that were elected in federal, provincial or municipal elections. We know it, women are still underrepresented in politics. Their presence at the National Assembly has remained stagnant at 30% for the past 15 years. The obstacles that elected women face have been well documented through research. According to the Conseil du statut de la femme, the difference in how girls and boys are socialized, the unequal sharing of family responsibilities, and the culture of parties and political institutions are the main factors that hinder a fair presence of women in politics.
Based on the findings of the interviews conducted by the council, it was only after a rigorous assessment of their abilities and on the effect that political life would have on their personal lives and professional lives that the majority of the women interviewed chose to actively get involved in politics. We must admit that the current parliamentary organization was designed and implemented by men, at a time when they could avoid family tasks to fully dedicate themselves to public life. But this situation is no longer suited to a time where most fathers and mothers have a parental role as well as a professional role. Despite this common responsibility, work-life balance is a burden that affects women more particularly. In the world there are a number of support measures for parenting that can facilitate a balance between parliamentary work and parental work.
The council also believes that the masculine culture of political debate is based on a combative idea, one of jousting, which continues to discourage women who as a whole do not see themselves in this type of exchange. Given the stagnation in women's representation, we believe that binding measures need to be adopted so that here, in Quebec, we can reach parity for candidates, which would mean between 40% and 60% for both genders.
Through our research, we noted that very little work had been done on the profile of elected women. Without making any specific recommendations, the council hopes that political parties take diversity into account and that they facilitate the access of women from all social categories to the political sphere. We also believe that it is important to maintain the funding of projects that seek to support political action by women. Meeting inspiring people as well as participation in social and political activities are also determining factors.
The numbers that I will share with you may be surprising. We thought that it would be interesting to analyze the presence of young women during parliamentary simulations that took place in the National Assembly of Quebec in the past few years. Recently, in 2016, the student Parliament for grade 6 students included 65.6% of female participants. The youth Parliament for those in their third and fourth year of high school included 65.2% of female participants. The student Parliament at the college level included 43.6% of women participants and the one for young women between the ages of 18 and 25 included 31.9%.
Given these results, we are forced to conclude that even today, despite all of the work that is done, there is a clear decrease in women's interest and involvement in politics as they age. There is no easy and single solution that will resolve the complex issue of the underrepresentation of women in politics. Notwithstanding the measures that were discussed previously, we need to act upstream.
The Conseil du statut de la femme recently issued an opinion on gender equality in schools, which recommends a mandatory gender equality class be given in schools from the beginning of primary to the end of secondary schooling. One part of this course could in fact focus on the equal socialization of girls and boys with regard to politics.
We know that Quebec is one of the most advanced societies in the world when it comes to gender equality. Unfortunately, the lengthy stagnation of women's political representation indicates that goodwill is not enough. A thorough change of approach and concrete legislative measures are necessary to reach political parity, a principle which is at the heart of gender equality.
Thank you for your attention.