Unpacking Gender’s Role in Political Representation in Canada

Article 5 / 11 , Vol 38 No 2 (Summer)

Unpacking Gender’s Role in Political Representation in Canada

The story of women’s political representation in Canada has generally been told as one of progress. While substantial progress has been made, particularly in recent years, there have also been periods of stagnation. In this article, the author interrogates a theory of demand and supply with respect to candidate recruitment strategies. She writes that the undersupply of women candidates does not have to do with voter preferences, but rather partisan selection processes, media-influenced gender norms, and the kinds of issues which dominate political discourse. She concludes that a demand and supply model of political recruitment provides a useful framework for understanding variation in women’s political underrepresentation in Canada.

In recent years much of the research into women’s political representation has focussed on the tremendous growth in the number of countries, now standing at over one hundred, that have adopted gender quotas as a means of increasing the number of women in legislatures around the world.1 But in the absence of such quotas, how well do women do politically? To what extent, for instance, does women’s political representation vary in Canada, where there are no formal legislative requirements for ensuring minimal numbers of women candidates on the ballot? And what are the primary forces shaping when and whether women are recruited into politics in Canada, given the absence of any such formal requirements?