Roxanne will miss the fun part when your questions begin in a few minutes.
We've been looking forward to this since we got the invitation to appear before the standing committee. Actually, Roxanne came back two days early from a business trip to India in order to be here today, so she'll be here in spirit in terms of continuing.
None of the points I'll be raising today should be of any surprise to members of the standing committee. I am convinced that they've been raised again and again and again, but we need to raise them again so that they can be heard and actions taken. When we started hearing it from the women themselves, it made it very real for us. It gave us a sense of urgency, a little bit like Roxanne sitting in the gallery of the legislature and asking the question, “Well, where are the women?” There is a sense of urgency in advocating for change and advocating for solutions.
We've had so few role models in New Brunswick in terms of elected women in office. We've had 37 elected; 32 are still living, and we've lost five. I had the pleasure of working with all 37 elected women. I was in the public service for 38 years, and I knew all of them—all very strong women, but not enough of them to provide role models for women and girls.
Many women have never imagined themselves in this kind of public political role, and thus have to be approached and approached again, and sometimes a third time—and a fourth time, and a fifth time—before they actually make that decision to throw their hat into the ring. We generally do not like to work in a confrontational environment, and politics can sometimes have that flavour. It's a system that we've given ourselves over time, and it's not one that women always enjoy. We prefer to work in a collaborative kind of environment. We prefer building together as opposed to opposing for the sake of opposing. There again, there's a little bit of a culture issue that's not necessarily attractive to women in terms of entering that field.
We don't appreciate the media's portrayal of women in politics. They do seem to be more interested in our appearance and our demeanour, as opposed to our positions or accomplishments or opinions. We don't have the same types of networks. Caregiving is a significant challenge.
We would also guess that part of the challenge in New Brunswick and everywhere else, we suspect, is that our local riding associations are very male-dominated. Naturally we tend to surround ourselves with people who look like us. It is a barrier for women entering at that particular level.
I am skipping several pages here because we were told to hurry up.
We feel that in the 14 months since we were born, we've made a difference. The corner of my kitchen table is exactly where we're doing Women for 50%, like most women's organizations do, and we are making a difference. We are seeing and sensing and hearing a different conversation in our province. We are working very, very closely with the political parties. We've built tools with them, all of them, at the same table at the same time. There are many examples of good things in New Brunswick.
I will wait for your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.