Leading the way forward
South Korea began to break away at the gender gap in politics Monday, Feb. 25, when the country elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye. Park is the daughter of the country’s former military ruler, Park Chung-hee. The election, which was greeted with an unusually high voter turnout, granted Park a narrow victory against her liberal rival, makng her the eleventh president of the country. In her victory speech, Park addressed her goal of wanting to heal a “divided society.”
Women earn nearly 40 per cent less than men in South Korea, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, where South Korea is among the 26 member nations.
Canada has only had one female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, who was appointed to the position in 1993, replacing retired leader Brian Mulroney. Her run was short lived after she was defated in the Federal elections by Hedy Fry in the same year.
In the 2011 federal election in Canada, a record 76 women were seated in Parliament, meaning that for the first time, women made up about one quarter of the House of Commons. Despite this, the ratio is under the 30 per cent mark that identifies as having significant representation. Though Canada is increasing its female representation in politics, the country sits 52nd in the world for female representation in political office.
According to the United Nations, the worldwide average of women make up only 19.5 per cent of all parliamentarians. From 1960 to 2009, about 71 women from 52 countries have been national leaders.
Regina has had only one female mayor, Doreen Hamilton, in 1988. While she only served as interim mayor, Hamilton went on to become an MLA for the Regina Wascana Plains region.
Ward 7 city councillor, Sharron Bryce, believes that while there has been progress, it’s still harder for women to get into politics.
“Women are out in the workforce, of course, and that’s changing people’s outlook on women. When I was elected to city council, I was the only woman on council, but for the past couple of other terms, there has been one other woman.” – Sharron Bryce
“[For] a lot of women, their priorities are children, and raising children, and it’s been like that since the beginning of time, and it’s really hard to step away from that and have a career … it’s just that we end up being the primary caregivers and that sometimes blocks us wanting to spend a lot of time away from the home. With something like city council, that takes up a lot of evenings and weekends with a lot of meetings.”
Bryce does see a bright future for women entering into politics though, as a slow but important change continues to move forward. First elected to City Council in 2003, Bryce says change is on its way.
“Women are out in the workforce, of course, and that’s changing people’s outlook on women. When I was elected to city council, I was the only woman on council, but for the past couple of other terms, there has been one other woman.”
Bryce left off with some encouraging advice for women thinking of going into politics one day.
“If it’s something that interests them I think they should be the voice of the community and I think they should go for it. I really think we need more women in politics, and I think sometimes we bring a perspective that is fresh and not always thought about.”
Photo by The Greek Foreign Ministry