Thank you very much for inviting us to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Good afternoon. My name is Roxanne Fairweather. I am CEO of a company called Innovatia in New Brunswick, and I'm also co-chair of Women for 50%, along with Aldéa Landry. I am accompanied by our heavy lifter here—she does all the heavy lifting—Norma Dubé, our executive director. We're going to be doing the presentation in English, but we can accept questions in either official language.
We launched Women for 50% 18 months ago, in January of 2017. We are a group of 12 very passionate women from different areas of the province, with great representation right across the province and with different backgrounds, including business, academia, politics, and public service.
At the core, we were all very dismayed with New Brunswick being the laggard across the 10 provinces, having only 16% representation of females in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly. This is unacceptable. It has to change, and we need to have our voices heard and have equality on the legislative floor.
Our overarching goal was to achieve 50% female candidates in the 2018 election, which is coming up in September. In order to change that 16% representation, we first have to have women on the ballots.
There were three strategies that we deployed. One was to create awareness, because I have to say sadly that I wasn't aware, back four years ago when I sat and watched the legislature begin, that we had such a dismal representation issue. We really started by trying to create awareness of this need for more women to be elected and to support those women by nurturing a public dialogue and creating public awareness and by explaining the immense impact that women have and can have when they hold office and the impact of not having women's voices heard, and by publicly tracking the progress towards the 50% goal and holding our political parties accountable for achieving that result.
Second, we encourage women to run—and we have talked to hundreds of women across the province—by demystifying what's involved in running for public office. We lend tangible support to interested women across the province who need information and education. Norma will get into that a little bit later on. We work very closely with political parties, and in collaboration with them we have created tools and resources that we make available to all through our website.
We do build and we have built a sustainable infrastructure—we continue to do that—by enlisting the support of party leaders and those in the party and inviting them to publicly share their support, their plans, their targets, and their progress and by holding them accountable.
We also provide input to the New Brunswick electoral reform process and work with well-established resource partners who can conduct outreach and be a continuing source of education and support and mentoring for women who are considering the opportunity to be candidates in this election.
We believe that in our short span, 18 months, we have made significant inroads, but there is a ton of work to do. This is a mammoth job. It's 200 years of an endemic issue that we have, and social change really has to occur to make any significant change.
Now with just over three months left before the provincial election, we need to continue to encourage and nurture public awareness around the need to have more women run in politics. Again, we are talking to hundreds of women every day.
This is about gender-balanced politics. It's about ensuring that our political representatives better reflect the people they represent, 50% of us. It's about the female voice being heard and respected.
Repeated intense research by many sources proves that better outcomes result from gender-balanced decision-making, with faster decisions, more effective actions taken, and better financial outcomes. Women bring a unique perspective to all tables, a perspective that must be reflected in policy-making at the top of our legislative system.
I'll now turn it over to Norma to speak to some of the challenges we heard about from the hundreds of women we talked to. She will tell you what we're doing about some of those issues and what we're doing about breaking down some of the barriers.