Per cent of a woman
With Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco’s announcement a little over a month ago that he would not seek re-election in October, speculation for the mayoral race has run high. But while those seeking the top civic office have so far been exclusively male, experts are expecting there to be an increased number of females running for positions at city hall.
Tina Beaudry-Mellor, a political science professor at the University of Regina, believes women will be seen more and more in the position of city councilor over the next few years.
Currently, there are two women in city councillor positions, Jocelyn Hutchinson and Sharron Bryce. Given that there are 10 wards in Regina, the demographics of City Council are a bit skewed.
“They typically run more locally that in municipal elections, and the reason for that is that women tend to gravitate towards positions that require less travel,” Beaudry-Mellor said.
“When you work federally, you’re going to spend most of your time in Ottawa. Even if you work in provincial government, you’re still going to have to travel for weeks at a time. Running locally allows mothers to balance their work and family lives.”
However, the reason women and men are not equally represented in government is not purely due to the fact that women have families. After all, as of the 2011 federal election, the current seating plan of the House of Commons features a record number of women. Not all women have families, and the men in Parliament have wives and children, too. The lack of female representation at various levels of government, Beaudry-Mellor says, cannot be explained away with gender stereotypes.
“What we say about men – at sexual assault trials they say, ‘Well, she was dressed provocatively, he just couldn’t control himself,’ and then someone else says, ‘Men are better leaders because they’re more rational.’ Well, how rational are you? It’s a really bizarre hypocrisy,” Beaudry-Mellor said. “I’ve seen men cry in public office. I think that’s a good thing. But does that mean they’re less capable at making decisions? No. You want a leader with some passion.”
The shift toward accepting women as capable decision-makers has been a slow one. It’s been nearly 25 years since Doreen Hamilton, who in 1988 served a one-year term as Regina’s first female mayor following the resignation of Larry Schneider. But Beaudry-Mellor believes we will be seeing more women in power roles throughout the country as time passes.
“There are so many young women in this city who are starting to be community leaders and it’s only a matter of time,” she said. “I sincerely hope that when that time comes that we look only for the qualities of the candidate. Before we do that, I think we need women to start supporting each other”
Former U of R student Sarah Etter, one of the candidates running for city council this year. She hopes to increase the representation of women in Regina’s city council, along with other minorities.
“The fact that there are only two women on the council is a huge misrepresentation, along with the fact that there is only one race and age group,” Etter said. “I think Regina [has] come such a long way and we should be able to represent all ages, races, and genders.”
However, Etter said she hasn’t been faced with any issues related to her gender, yet.
Although the process is slow, Beaudry-Mellor insists things are changing.
“I think it’s absolutely undeniable that there will be more women seen in political roles,” she said. “I think Regina could have a female mayor in the near future.”