Written for Daily Hive by Rachael Segal, a lawyer, former media and long-time political staff. Rachael is on a mission to engage more women into politics.
I am grateful for the opportunity to write this annual Women’s Day article highlighting women in politics because it helps me to take stock of the incredible contributions that women make in global politics every year.
This year I have been thinking a lot about our impact. 2021 was a census year for Canada, meaning that we now have a better picture of just how many women of voting age there are in this country. And women officially make up the majority of eligible Canadian voters.
Let that sink in. Women are the largest voting demographic in Canada.
Why is that important? Because the more women realize that we are the voting majority, the better we can hold governments and political parties accountable on issues that impact us. It is also important because politics remains male-dominated — men are still predominantly the ones around the table where decisions are made, decisions that directly impact women’s lives.
How can something be male-dominated but still include a female majority? How can we change this?
Voice. Passion. Education. And giving women the tools and platforms to engage in politics.
I am about to give away a trade secret: political parties know that women hold a lot of political weight. In fact, most parties openly discuss how women aged 25–40 are the largest swing-voter demographic in our country, meaning that each time a campaign is launched or a policy decision is made, thought is given to how to engage this specific demographic. Political parties need women to vote for them in order to win elections.
Women in Canada have long faced political challenges. Being International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to remind you that Canada’s Supreme Court did not even recognize women as “persons” until a UK court overturned their decision in 1929, thanks to a group of grassroots activist women. Canada’s history is rich in stories of women standing up for their rights and the rights of others, and yet Canada remains far behind other nations when it comes to policy directly related to our lives. Wage gaps still exist. Poverty still exists. Housing crises still exist. Just to name a few.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a federal election in 2021, fewer than three years after Canadians went to the polls in 2019. The big difference between the 2019 campaign and the 2021 campaign was one clear theme: COVID-19. It is no secret that women have been disproportionately impacted both financially and socially by the global pandemic, and this was acknowledged throughout the 2021 federal election campaign through party platform promises and campaign speeches, including discussions around one major ongoing policy challenge: childcare.
Towards the end of the campaign a grassroots group of women from across Canada came together to form the “We are Moms'” campaign. They stated, “COVID has affected all parts of the Canadian workforce- but working women more than most.”
The women sent a letter to the federal government exclaiming that “Canada needs a game-changing national childcare plan,” framing their argument around the concept that the Canadian economy will never recover from COVID without a tangible plan to keep women in the workforce. The fight for childcare reform, including a $10 a day national childcare plan, has been long fought by thousands of incredible women in this country. The “We Are Moms’” campaign is one example of women coming together and recognizing the power that they hold. It gave me pause because these women, primarily out of a place of privilege, realized that they had a platform to have party leaders listen—and they used it. We must focus our efforts in getting all Canadian women to understand this power, regardless of who they are and the issue that is important to them—be it the environment, immigration reform or foreign affairs.
Today and every day, Canadian women must be reminded of the power that we hold. We are not simply “the electorate,” we are the majority of voting Canadians who face specific challenges on a daily basis that can be directly eased through thoughtful policy changes. We must teach future generations of girls to speak up, become education and engage in policy issues and that our voices matter. We need to capitalize on being the vocal majority, not the silent one. Canadian politician and political parties have known the power of women’s votes for years, it’s now time to come together and use it.