Former BC premier Christy Clark has spoken out about sexism in politics, posting a blistering call for more women to be given a chance to run for office.
Clark’s comments come a day after federal Minister for Sport & Persons with Disabilities Kent Hehr resigned from cabinet, accused of sexual harassment by a former staffer.
On the same day, Patrick Brown, leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, resigned after being accused of making sexual advances towards a teenaged staffer.
Writing on Facebook, Clark thanked all the women who have come forward.
“All of us who have experienced a sexual assault, harassment, or aggressive and unwelcome advances know it’s a damn hard thing to talk about,” she wrote.
“Every one of you has set a powerful example and every day more women are finding their voices as a result.”
In 2016, Clark shared stories from her own youth of sexual advances from strangers, getting flashed, groped, and spied on.
She also recalled a stranger pulling her off the sidewalk into the bushes. She said she was in no doubt that he wanted to hurt her.
Clark said she struggled and managed to get away, but never spoke of it to anyone, until sharing her story publicly, 35 years later.
‘Plenty of frat boy behaviour’
Now writing on Facebook, Clark said that in her 25 years in BC politics, she saw “plenty of frat boy behaviour” and promised herself she would do things differently as leader.
“My first Cabinet had a greater percentage of women in it than any in the previous decade,” said Clark.
“Over a third of our government board appointments were women and half of our civil service.”
She notes that their Speaker was a woman, their government Caucus Chair was a woman, and their Lieutenant Governor was a woman.
“It was a special time. Unfortunately, all of those jobs – except the LG – are now held by men,” she writes.
‘These women were not tokens’
Clark said she didn’t trumpet this because she wanted the women to be judged on their qualifications, rather than their gender.
“These women were not tokens, not statistics added together to make a good press release,” she wrote.”Every one of them was qualified. Every one of them made a difference for women in the workplace.”
“It’s an awful lot harder for sexist behaviour to go unnoticed or be deliberately ignored when there’s a woman in the room. Moreover, that behaviour is never going to be rewarded when there’s a woman in charge.”
Clark was the first woman to be elected BC Premier, the only woman ever re-elected premier in Canada, and was the longest serving female premier in Canadian history.
She stepped down from politics last year, after her BC Liberal party failed to successfully form a government when the BC election left the legislature hung.
‘Give her a chance’
Clark finishes her Facebook post by calling for the public to elect more women.
“Yes, make sure they’re qualified – not every woman is better just because she’s female – but if she’s smart and capable, give her the chance,” she writes.
“And for political parties? Work harder to find great women to run for office.”
Clark also makes the point that having a gender-balanced cabinet won’t make any difference if the civil servants running those departments are all men.
“Make sure your own office has women in senior roles. Yes, I get it, most of you are men, but culture change starts at the top,” she wrote.
“If your ‘real’ Cabinet is mostly male, you won’t change a thing despite the window dressing.”
In the end, she says, we are watching history being made.
“Politics is a brutal and very often brutally sexist business – one that has historically reduced women like me to a footnote in history,” she wrote.
“But, thanks to lots of brave women who are making their voices heard, change is FINALLY afoot. I am delighted.”