Evidence of meeting #111 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was candidates.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

William McBeath  As an Individual
Brenda O'Neill  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, As an Individual
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.
K. Kellie Leitch  Simcoe—Grey, CPC
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
Madeleine Redfern  Mayor, City of Iqaluit
Arezoo Najibzadeh  Executive Director, Young Women's Leadership Network
Daniela Chivu  As an Individual

4:10 p.m.

As an Individual

William McBeath

I think you're absolutely right in that the message that's sent by the leader telegraphs right through the party about what is or is not a priority for that organization. Is a leader mentioning recruiting more women candidates frequently, all the time? I will say, Jason Kenney has mentioned it in every single speech I've heard him give, which is probably now in the hundreds, so we know that's a priority.

The other thing that may be a little bit less obvious is the group of people surrounding the leader. Is it a group of people who are also diverse, or talking about diversity, but then the political staff who work for that leader are uniformly all young men, for example? To me, that also gets noticed. Who is the group of people around the leadership? That sends a message, I think, that needs to be taken into account.

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

I just reiterate, there is no question that the leader of a party sends a very clear message on what is desired on the part of the party.

I would also make the case that the informal processes that are in the party matter, the things that aren't legislated. Again, research has shown that those are the things that really matter for the degree to which diversity is found in our political parties, candidacies and nominations.

4:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

K. Kellie Leitch

I completely agree with you with respect to that, and a lot of those things the public doesn't know about.

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

Yes, yes, exactly. They're hidden.

4:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

K. Kellie Leitch

Yes.

I have been very fortunate to have a career as an orthopaedic surgeon, a rather male-dominated career path. I would be one of 2% of women who are orthopaedic surgeons in the country. I ended up in my role because two fabulous guys decided they wanted more women to be orthopaedic surgeons, Allan Gross and a guy by the name of Jim Wright at The Hospital for Sick Children.

Dr. O'Neill, you say you want a quota. I'm pretty confident that there wasn't a quota to be the head of political science at the University of Calgary, and I'm respectful of your position, but I think that women do well when they earn it and they're seen as equal partners.

You talked about a different language to use. How do we get to that place where an individual like me says, “I don't want a quota because I earned it”, but we are still looking at how we have more women involved?

I was very interested in your idea of a timeline with regard to that affirmative action side of things, but, as I say, I'm not for quotas; I'm very much against them. I think we need to be encouraging men more, but what is that language? How do we get to that place that isn't a quota?

4:10 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

Language matters, and you're absolutely right.

4:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

The minute you use a quota, you're going to get people's backs up, but I take issue with the notion that women who are in positions because of a quota somehow have a harder row to hoe, if you will, than others because of their positions. It's not 2%, but I know within the discipline of political science there aren't as many women. I think we're up at about 30%, so it's still very much male-dominated. The best advice that I ever got from another woman academic was to tell me that if you can get a position because you're a woman, take it, and just show them that you can do it.

It seems to me that part of the stereotyping is because we don't have women in those positions. If we say we can't have quotas, because if you put women in those positions as a result of quotas, they won't be respected, then the end result is that we don't have women in those positions at all, and nothing changes.

I think there are informal processes that keep women from being in those positions. What I would say, then, is you need to do something to kick-start the process so that we do have those changes that show that those stereotypes and those myths don't hold water.

4:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

K. Kellie Leitch

You see, I fundamentally disagree with you on that, because I think that every woman in this room could earn it, and they don't need that. That being said, that's okay.

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

I think there are a lot of women outside of the room who could do it, but don't get a chance.

4:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

K. Kellie Leitch

As I said, I think that conversation about the language for it could move it a long way, because I think there are many things we're on the same page about. It would be outstanding if we could figure out what that language is.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You have 20 seconds.

4:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey, CPC

K. Kellie Leitch

I have a quick question for you, Mr. McBeath.

On engaging men and boys, what do you think the barriers are for a man deciding to be a mentor to a woman? We don't see enough of them stepping forward with a great female candidate.

4:15 p.m.

As an Individual

William McBeath

I would say that possibly they have felt that it wasn't their place to be involved, and that definitely needs to be pushed back on hard. It needs to be a message that, again, gets communicated right from the top to the bottom of the party, starting at the leader.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you so much.

Sonia Sidhu, you have five minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, Lib.

Thank you both for being here.

I just want to acknowledge that I'm here today because of our leader. Our Prime Minister has a great vision, and that's why I am here today. He wanted more women, and that's why I stepped in.

My question is to Professor O'Neill.

In your view, does the riding of a female candidate affect or determine their electoral success?

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

Certainly, where they're running determines their success. Absolutely.

We know that in part because right now, there's work—and this isn't my work, this is the work of Melanee Thomas at the University of Calgary, with Marc-André Bodet—that has shown that the “sacrificial lamb” hypothesis still holds in Canada. If we have no quotas or legislation, and barring any kind of different legislation, what often happens is that women will be placed in ridings in which they have less chance to win. Partly, I would argue, because of my work about women leaders, they're less competitive and so it's easier for women to step forward and be selected in those particular ridings. That's what's happening, yes.

As I would also point out, we can't always know which ridings are the ones in which the party's going to win. I think that's an important point we often forget about. When we do get those jumps in the representation of women, it is because the parties that didn't expect to win actually won. They nominated a lot of women in ridings that they didn't think they were going to take, and so you end up with a greater representation for women in that setting.

4:15 p.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Thank you.

According to research, women are less likely than men to be interested in or knowledgeable about politics. Women are also less likely than men to be confident in their political abilities. What factors contribute to women's lower level of political interest? You explored that before: political knowledge and political self-confidence compared to men. What is the main effect of women's interest to run for elected office?

4:15 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

First, I might not always teach this in statistics. When you're concentrating on gaps between women and men, the difference between the two of them, we often say that women are less interested in politics than men are, therefore they didn't run. That's true, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a whole heck of a lot of women who are interested in politics and who would be willing to run—and I think that's an important point to make. Focusing on the gap is problematic, as far as I'm concerned.

There are a whole host of reasons why you could say women are less interested in politics, but I think one of them is just this perpetuation of the notion that politics is difficult, it's a war, it's combative—all those sorts of stereotypes. The way it's portrayed in the media, I think, reproduces this notion that this is where men should be and women should be doing other kinds of things. We still have this kind of public-private divide.

4:20 p.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

The U.S. has seen the rise of powerful PACs. What are your thoughts about that?

4:20 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

I take exception with the point that was made. I don't think that party always trumps every issue. I think that, on certain occasions, you can get gender to bring women together and to work, even outside party discipline. I think it can be done if the issue is important enough. The role of PACs is one that can certainly provide a spotlight on an issue. It can certainly help with things like raising funds for individuals, and so on. It can certainly help with the educative effect of teaching people what it actually means to run for office and what's involved with it, and so on. I think there's a role to play, but I'm also very cautious about PACs because I think they, in part, can become barriers as well as being helpful.

September 26th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

What's the family role in that? Do you think it's a positive or a negative role if they have family support?

4:20 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

I think it's essential, if you have a family. We know many more women than men are single when they run for office.

4:20 p.m.

Brampton South, Lib.

Sonia Sidhu

Still, they have parents, brothers or sisters.

4:20 p.m.

Prof. Brenda O'Neill

Sure. I don't think you can do it alone. Are there many things in life that you can do alone? In politics, particularly if you're leaving home, I think a support system is essential to being able to do this, and more greatly so if you have children.