Examining Women’s Participation (or lack thereof) in Political Campaigns: Part 1 of 3

University Level Student Government Campaigns

Whether she is seeking election to student government, to provincial or federal Parliament, or even if she’s in the running to become Canada’s next Prime Minister – the modern day female electoral candidate faces some peculiar obstacles, to say the least. While reading recently, I stumbled across three different articles that offer what I found to be valuable insight into this phenomenon. The following will be the first of a three part blog post this week reflecting upon these three articles respectively, which together help us to answer the question: Why are women seemingly discouraged from running as candidates in campaigns for political office?

Let’s start off by taking a look at the findings of some research that was recently conducted surrounding student government elections at the University of Ottawa (and although these stats relate specifically to the University of Ottawa, they speak to trends which we can see at different levels of politics). When we examine the number of both women and men who ran in the race for the position of President, we see that only eight women (compared to thirty-three men) – in the fourteen elections that took place from 1995 – 2009, opted to run for the position of president. Why so few women?

Interestingly, this imbalance does not seem to underlie competitions for every other position within student government. For example, most VP Social Affairs positions are awarded to women, irrespective of the number of men running against them. Maybe the question should be, why are women only disproportionately represented in political campaigns for certain positions?

The lack of female participation in these electoral campaigns becomes a particular quandary when one considers that nearly sixty percent of all the women who ran in SFUO elections in all the years were successful, compared to the mere forty-three percent of men who won the campaigns in which they participated. Granted, only about one third as many women ran during this time as men, but this raises further questions about why fewer women run if their odds of winning are even better than men’s.

As you may have noticed, a look into the statistics surrounding women’s participation in University-level student government campaigns seems to produce more questions than answers about the sporadic lack of female involvement. Stayed tuned – later this week, we’ll try to uncover the answer as to why women tend to shy away from engaging in political campaigns.

Special thanks to our great volunteer Jasmine Pickel for contributing this series!

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