Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist

Interesting study by Environics Institute, underlying the importance of data and analysis in challenging assumptions:

Sorry to disappoint you, Canada, but it turns out you’re nowhere near as uniquely feminist in your ideas about political leadership as you seem to think you are. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inaugural gender-parity cabinet, and his Jan. 10 shuffle which the majority of cabinet posts to women, Canada is better than the average, sure.

But when asked whether women are just as qualified to lead their country as men, Canadians are less likely to agree than respondents in such stereotypically macho countries as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Venezuela. Going strictly by the numbers, Canadians are less likely to agree with the proposition than Kenyans.

That’s just one of the surprising findings in a groundbreaking international survey undertaken late last year by the Toronto-based Environics Institute, made available exclusively to the National Post. Involving 62,918 respondents in 60 countries, the Environics survey is the most ambitious of its kind that the institute has ever undertaken.

Here’s another one of its surprises: age and education levels play no clear role in whether people will agree that women are as qualified as men to serve in political leadership positions. In some countries, the older and less educated you are, the more likely you’ll be content with women holding political power.

The Swedes, whose government boasts that it’s “the first feminist government in the world,” are not statistically different than Chileans or Mexicans, or Canadians for that matter. And the rigidly theocratic Saudis, who are notorious for requiring women to cover themselves from head to toe in niqabs and won’t even allow women to drive, come in only slightly below the thoroughly democratic Japanese, who are only barely likely to agree that women are as capable as men in political leadership.

In most countries, there’s not much difference between what women and men say on the subject, either. Here’s a shocker: people who are most emphatic that women are as capable in national leadership positions as men are more likely to cleave simultaneously to the “patriarchal” notion that a man should be the head of the family.

Of the United Nations’ 193 member states, only 19 heads of state or heads of government are women. If this isn’t mainly because of institutional barriers or differences in political systems, and if it doesn’t simply reflect what men want, or what old people want, or what people without much schooling want, then what’s going on?

“It looks like it’s mainly culture,” says Keith Neuman, the Environics Institute’s executive director. Another lesson from the study is that the assumptions Canadians tend to make about certain cultures, and the implications for the status of women, might also be more than just a bit wonky.

“Nobody’s ever asked these questions of all these countries so we didn’t have clear expectations, but what surprised me I guess was the level of support in a number of patriarchal societies. I was surprised by the level of support, for instance, in Latin America,” Neuman told me. “Part of me assumed that it would be the western progressive feminist countries, the countries with the strongest feminist leanings, that would be the counties where people would be be inclined to say, yes, absolutely, women of course are just as qualified as men. That didn’t come out the way I’d expected.”

Globally, nearly eight in ten people are pretty much like Canadians, at least mildly agreeing with the statement: “Women are just as qualified as men to lead our country.” Respondents were given a ‘totally agree’ or ‘totally disagree’ option, to identify responses that were emphatic and not merely indications of a ‘Yeah, sure, whatever’ attitude. Latin America comes in with a higher “totally agree” score than any region in the world, at 85 per cent, exceeding even Western Europe’s 77 per cent average.

But in that same “totally agree” category, Canada comes in at 62 per cent, below Spain (72 per cent), Portugal (71 per cent), Italy (65 per cent), and Kenya (66 per cent).

Cold comfort: at least Canadians score higher than Americans. Only 43 per cent of American respondents “totally” agree. Canada gets to rub it in, too: the United States scores lower than Pakistan, where 48 per cent of respondents “totally” agree.

Unsurprisingly, the Arab countries come in low in the total-agreement category, at 38 per cent of Syrians, for instance, 22 per cent of Algerians, and 24 per cent of the Saudis — roughly half of whom, surprisingly, at least basically agree that women are as qualified to lead as men. Respondents in the East Asian countries came in generally low in “total agreement” with the idea that women are as qualified in politics as men. But the Japanese come in close to the Saudis. While 63 per cent at least agree, only 27 per cent totally agree.

Undertaken in collaboration with Environics Communications and Environics Analytics — two commercial firms in the Environics group — roughly 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 60 countries in the study. The surveys relied on technology pioneered by Toronto’s RIWI Corp., which gets around the usual recruited online panels by teasing out random samples of country populations through cellular phones and laptop computers. (RIWI has racked up quite a few predictive bullseyes lately, pinpointing the tipping point in Egypt’s popular uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and correctly forecasting Donald Trump’s electoral college win despite Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote lead in the U.S. presidential elections. RIWI also called the margin of defeat in Italy’s constitutional referendum within a single percentage point last December.)

Source: Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist | National Post

Playboy and the False Normalization of the Hijab: Maajid Nawaz

Nawaz provides historical perspective to wearing of the hijab, contrasting liberal and conservative perspectives, which will provoke discussion and debate:

As a reforming secular liberal Muslim, I do not endorse the gender-discriminatory body-shaming and moralizing of the hijab. I will fight fiercely to protect anyone’s right to wear this medieval flag of female “chastity,” but that doesn’t mean I think the wearer is right to do so. Let us not ban the hijab, but let us not glamorize it either. I prefer leaving that to religious conservatives who are fixated on nudity, “modesty,” and female “honor.” This is a conservative, not liberal, view of the human body. Such illiberal, regressive-left promotion of religious conservativism—only for Muslims mind you—is nothing short of exoticized Orientalism rehashed.

 The assumption made by some liberals is that the “authentic” Muslim woman is the hijab-wearing one, while non-hijabis are seen as Westernized, inauthentic Muslims. Likewise, the religious-conservative Muslim assumption equates concealing the female form to “modesty,” as if a woman who shows her hair or reveals her figure is somehow immodest.

This is a not-so-subtle form of bigotry against the female form, and it has real consequences, including rising social-conservative attitudes across Muslim communities around gender and sexual freedom. In too many instances across Muslim-majority societies, including those embedded in Europe, this “modesty theology” has led to slut-shaming of women who do not cover. Worse yet, it can lead to so-called honor killings.

Many non-Muslims simply assume there is only one—conservative—way of being Muslim. But we Muslims are no longer this distant and native “other” that liberals and conservatives can visit once a year to share a bit of falafel.

We are born and raised among you, and Islam is therefore now firmly native to our societies. So judge us by the same progressive standards you reserve for everyone else. We Muslim reformers have to be able to demand the same progressive rights within our communities that are enjoyed by everyone else. Your intervention and interaction with Muslims’ intra-religious debate around these issues is not neutral. A civil war is raging within our communities about the future of Islam for Muslims.

Liberal Muslim theologians such as Britain’s Shaykh Salah al-Ansari, Dr. Usama Hasan, and Pakistan’s Javaid Ghamidi, argue that the hijab is not a religious duty (fard) at all. And that is how it used to be.

Up until the 1980s, the female body was not shamed out of public view in Muslim-majority societies. But from the ’80s onward, theocratic Islamism began replacing Arab socialism as the ideology of resistance against “the West.” This struggle against the “other” necessitated defining what is “ours” and what is “theirs”—and women, of course, were deemed “ours.”

Suddenly, women’s bodies became the red line in a cultural war against the West started by theocratic Islamism. A Not Muslim Enough charade was used to identify “true” Muslims against “Western” stooges. Religious dress codes became a crucial marker in these cultural purity stakes. Any uncovered woman was now deemed loose, decadent, and attention seeking. In short, aligned to the “Western enemy.”

Back to the Playboy shoot: The admirably entrepreneurial Noor Taguri advises younger girls who look up to her to “stay fearless and remember that everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”

My advice to Noor is: I hope you do the same, sister. Do look up the late great Egyptian feminist Huda Sharawi who truly stepped out of her “comfort zone” when, in 1923, she shocked Muslims everywhere by removing her hijab publicly for the first time.

Within months Muslim women the world over were encouraged to shed this gender-discriminatory medieval throwback to “modesty.” Those were the days when genuine Western progressives supported genuine Muslim feminists.

Muslim Women in the U.K. Are The Most Economically Disadvantaged | TIME

Not surprising given patterns of UK immigration. Comparable numbers in Canada: the unemployment rate of Muslim women is 10 percent higher than Christian women, the participation rate 8 percent lower:

A new report has found that Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in Britain, blighted by the highest level of unemployment compared to other religious and ethnic groups in the country.

Muslims, who make up 4.8% of the population of England and Wales, are more than two times likely to be unemployed compared to the general population. Women make up 65% of economic inactive Muslims are women, compared to 59% across all religions, says the report released by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, a cross-party group of British lawmakers.

The report also found that traditional family practices affected Muslim women’s job prospects; 44% of all economically inactive Muslim women were not in work because they were looking after the home, compared to a national average of 16%.

The report says Muslim women looking for work or in employment also face a “triple penalty” of being a woman, part of an ethnic minority and being Muslim. It said Muslim women suffered the “impact of Islamophobia” on women’s job prospects, facing discrimination due to their beliefs, culture or clothing.

“We heard evidence that stereotypical views of Muslim women can act as a barrier to work,” the Committee Chair and Conservative Member of Parliament Maria Miller said in a statement. “The data suggests that in communities these patterns are shifting across generations but we remain concerned that this shift is happening too slowly and that not all Muslim women are being treated equally.”

The committee called on the government to roll out a plan to tackle these inequalities by the end of 2016. They also called for “name-blind recruitment” for all employers, following studies that suggest people with white-sounding names are more likely to get interviews.

Source: Muslim Women in the U.K. Are The Most Economically Disadvantaged | TIME

Quebec police forces have best representation of women in Canada

police-gender-chart-2The companion piece to the analysis of visible minority representation (Police diversity fails to keep pace with Canadian populations). Waiting for the next piece on Indigenous peoples representation:

Quebec’s major police forces have among the highest proportions of female officers in the country, a CBC News analysis has found.

Leading the country is the Montreal Police Service, where nearly 32 per cent of its sworn officers are women.

At the tail end for major cities is the Winnipeg Police Service, where the proportion is less than half of Montreal`s at just under 15 per cent.

Of the 332 RCMP officers in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, less than 11 per cent are women.

For the last three decades, women and girls have formed a slim majorityof Canada’s population, Statistics Canada says.

In May, CBC News surveyed all major municipal, provincial and RCMP divisions in Canada in order to establish a national snapshot of the number of women working in the major law enforcement agencies.

The average proportion of women in these police forces stands at just over 20 per cent.

‘I thought we had done a much better job’

The woman who climbed to the highest rank in the Winnipeg Police Service’s history says she was not expecting these results.

“It was surprising. I thought we had done a much better job at recruiting women,” said former deputy chief Shelley Hart.

“I think there’s so much diversity in our police departments already that compared to what they were 38 years ago when I started, that everybody … sees policing as an option,” she said.

Hart believes that part of the challenge for some forces has been a general drop in applicants.

“Members of the public, young people, they sit back and think, do I want to be in the line of fire and have that kind of scrutiny on the decisions I make and the level of disrespect and violence on the street now and do they look at it now as one of those occupations that is desirable?” she said.

Danny Smyth, Winnipeg’s deputy chief, says he’s unsure how Montreal has managed to close the gender gap to such a degree, but despite the numbers his force has been actively recruiting women for years.

“In the ’90s we made some specific efforts; there was a time when we put in a full class that was exclusively women. I don’t know if other cities have done that and perhaps it’s something we may consider in the future again to bring more parity.”

He says the Winnipeg Police Service does not have set targets for gender recruiting, but it has set objectives for hiring more Indigenous officers.

Women bring ‘different perspectives’

Const. Nancy Roussel, spokesperson for the Quebec City Police Service, says while she knew women were relatively well represented, she was not aware of where they stood compared to their peers.

“If we consider [27.7 per cent] as a good score, then yes we’re happy, however, we haven’t undertaken any specific initiatives to target women. … The process doesn’t give preference to women,” she said.

“Throughout every level of the organization, the presence of more women brings forward different perspectives,” she said.

Source: Quebec police forces have best representation of women in Canada – Canada – CBC News

Why targets and data trump wishing and hoping in gender parity battle: Joanne Stanley


For those of us still working for full gender equality in Canadian society, there were two extraordinary announcements out of Ontario recently that deserved more fanfare than they initially received.

The first was from Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, indicating that he would leave his cabinet position in order to help Premier Kathleen Wynne achieve gender parity. It is rare in the quest for equality for a member of the dominant group to altruistically set aside self-interest to achieve a larger goal. He said he was inspired by his own daughters to take this step. He also said he was dreaming of the day when questions of gender parity won’t even arise any more.

Many of us share this dream, including Ms. Wynne herself. Her announcement of new gender-diversity targets to ensure more women have the opportunity to reach top leadership positions at government organizations gives a clear indication that she is not prepared to tolerate the glacial pace of the march toward equality. It is a welcome interruption not only for government, but also for the signal it sends to the business community that similar behaviour will be expected from them.

This announcement is powerful for two reasons. First, it sets the drive to parity in an economic context. The linkages between diversity and an organization’s capacity for innovation and good governance are indisputable. Many leading corporations governments understand this and aim to build fully inclusive organizations, yet relatively few have set targets and made commitments to report on progress as forthrightly as Ms. Wynne has. We hope her leadership is emulated.

In the struggle for diversity and inclusion, numbers matter. That’s the second reason this announcement is so powerful. Substantive change rarely happens by accident. Rather, it is accomplished by knowing your current position and setting targets and strategies for improvement. When Ontario achieves its target of ensuring that women make up at least 40 per cent of all provincial boards and agency appointments, substantive change will ensue. This is a vastly more intelligent approach than simply talking about equality as a philosophical concept and hoping that it will take care of itself.

Measuring, setting targets and reporting progress is a proven alternative to wishing and hoping. It is a strategy that Women in Communications and Technology itself has adopted to make change happen in Canada’s digital economy. We’ve been talking about the need for stronger engagement of women for years. And yet, for at least a generation, our gender rate has been stuck at around 25 per cent.

So WCT created an “Up the Numbers” initiative, which will invite digital companies (in broadcasting, communications and technology) to share their gender data with us. We will aggregate this data into an annual report that will track our industry’s progress toward parity. It will also provide a focus for industry-wide initiatives to get us there.

Not only is this a more productive approach, it is also bolder. As soon as an important step toward equality is taken, detractors will object. They predictably haul out time-worn arguments about merit. But these are usually transparent attempts to defend privilege. If after nearly a century of female enfranchisement and a revolution in women’s education we really believe that corporate boards with no women on them or industries where men outnumber women by four to one reflect a “merited” level of female inclusion, then our attempts at nation-building have failed.

So hats off to Mr. McMeekin and Ms. Wynne, and to all those private- and public-sector organizations working intelligently to end the conversation about gender equality by finally achieving it.

Source: Why targets and data trump wishing and hoping in gender parity battle – The Globe and Mail

The complicated task of getting more women involved in politics

The debate over how to get more women involved in politics, contrasting the NDP’s Kennedy Stewart’s private members bill linking election expense reimbursement with female candidate share with Michelle Rempel’s encouragement and education approach:

Mr. Stewart’s academic research has shown that the party selection processes are biased, and that men are five times more likely to win nominations just because the selectors are biased against women.

So, the problem is with the political parties, and their old-boy networks and structures.

Equal Voice, a non-partisan group that advocates for more elected women, notes that only 32 per cent of candidates in last year’s federal election were women.

Based on the formula in his bill, Mr. Stewart says $1.25-million would be deducted from the Conservatives’ reimbursement for the 2015 election, because 20 per cent of their candidates were female; the Liberals, with 31 per cent female candidates, would lose about $900,000, and the NDP, which ran 43 per cent female candidates, would have lost about $200,000.

Mr. Stewart’s bill was debated earlier this month in the Commons; it comes back for a vote in September.

Some note that, even if it passes, the desired change might not come. Equal Voice says that in France, for example, the major parties will simply take the financial hit.

For Ms. Rempel, the bill would not make “real change.” She says women need to be educated on how to win nominations – raising money, dealing with the media, and building networks – to prepare them for the “fiery furnace” of a federal election. She believes going through rigorous internal party vetting is a positive exercise for women.

“The propensity is – and frankly you see it in all political parties in Canada – I don’t want to see women that are thrown into non-winnable ridings just to be a token so that [the party] is not financially penalized,” she says. “I think that actually takes women a step back.”

She fears a bill such as Mr. Stewart’s will change the calibre of women in the Commons: “There are women in our House of Commons across party lines that have really strong CVs or really strong life experiences. All of the women that are in the House of Commons are there because they won elections, full stop. They are not there because of tokenism.”

The NDP has the strongest female representation in caucus (41 percent), the Conservatives the weakest (17 percent, identical to 2011 election), the Liberals 27 percent.

Source: The complicated task of getting more women involved in politics – The Globe and Mail

Canada can do better on getting more women elected, 60th place in world right now

Election 2015 - VisMin and Foreign-Born MPs.002Nancy Peckford and Grace Lore of EqualVoice argue for a gender-based lens with respect to evaluating electoral reform proposals. Women who are now more under-represented than visible minorities, where all parties have made major and successful recruiting efforts:

But, it is crucial to understand that “proportional representation” is not one thing and neither is “women’s political representation.” Proportional representation systems vary widely in how individuals become candidates, how votes are cast, and how those votes are translated into seats. UBC political scientist Grace Lore, and EV’s senior researcher, has just finished a multi-country study of electoral systems in Europe and North America with a specific focus on their effect on women’s representation. The data from that research strongly reveals that while the number of women elected is an important indicator of success, so is the ability of these women to act to represent their constituents, including women.

In ‘closed list’ PR systems, parties determine a set list of pre-approved candidates and voters simply pick a party and, de facto, accept the list of candidates in the ordered that is proposed by the party. In ‘open list’ systems, voters have the opportunity to indicate preferences between candidates. In some countries that use open list proportional representation, voters can even indicate a preference for candidates from multiple parties. Like open list proportional systems, alternative vote systems give voters the chance to rank parties instead of just indicating their top choice.

These are not minor or mechanical details—they matter greatly to how one participates in the democratic process. The nuts and bolts of each system also shape the role of parties and the choices available to voters, including the possibilities for women’s political representation. Some features of electoral systems, whether based on proportional representation or not, lead to the election of a greater number of women, while potentially reducing women’s capacity to represent women’s and other interests once they are in office. Other features improve the power of individual women to have influence, but do not maximize the possibilities for the sheer number of women elected. Lore’s extensive research of electoral systems on two continents and 15 countries underscores that if women representatives are more beholden to a political party for their election (versus having a direct relationship with constituents), their lack of independence frequently prevents them from effectively advocating on behalf of other women.

In short, proportional representation is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure women’s equal representation. Political culture matters significantly, i.e. voters and parties need to seek more women to appear on the ballot and create the conditions for their participation. More women also need to choose politics as the place to dedicate their time, energy, and skills. If we do not also tackle other systemic barriers, including inequality in access to political resources and the uncertainty of the nomination processes, we cannot count on this happening. These concerns can and should be part of the electoral reform discussion. Revisiting the rules around financing and timing of nomination races are two key areas where there is much room for improvement.

Canada can do better than its current 60th place in the global community for its representation of women. Open discussion around electoral reform provides us all—voters, parties, MPs, and organizations, with an opportunity to take action. Action, however, must be thoughtful and evidence based. A consideration of the impacts on women in politics should be incorporated at every stage of the process—from broad principals to basic mechanics.

Source: Canada can do better on getting more women elected, 60th place in world right now |

Artist draws moon’s craters named after women to illustrate inequality

web-craters09nw6Lack of historical diversity – only 27 out of 1,600 (0.02 percent):

Last year, Montreal artist Bettina Forget was looking at an atlas of the moon when something suddenly struck her as odd.

She knew the moon’s surface is pockmarked with craters of varying size. These circular depressions are the lasting record of billions of years’ worth of interplanetary bombardment dating back to the formation of the solar system. But, in a way, they also record an artifact of science and culture that hits much closer to home – because, no matter where Ms. Forget looked, the craters were named after men.

Soon, Ms. Forget found herself combing through the International Astronomical Union’s catalogue of lunar features. Of the more than 1,600 named craters on the moon, she discovered that a mere 27 honour famous women in science and space exploration.

That’s when she decided to draw all 27 by hand.

Source: Artist draws moon’s craters named after women to illustrate inequality – The Globe and Mail

Canadian woman will be on next series of bank notes, Trudeau announces

One has to admire the choreography of this announcement on International Women’s Day with other related elements: the PM’s op-ed in the Globe ( Gender equality is an opportunity, not a threat) and the announcement of DM changes, which included four women (one of whom is visible minority) and one man – because its 2016?:

The image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, Prime Minister Trudeau announced today.

“A Canadian woman will be featured on the very first of the next series of bills expected in 2018,” Trudeau said.

“Today, on International Women’s Day, the Bank of Canada is taking the first step by launching public consultations to select an iconic Canadian woman to be featured on this new bill.”

The government and the Bank of Canada did not indicate which denomination would showcase the iconic female Canadian.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who stood alongside the prime minister with other members of the Liberal caucus and former Mississauga, Ont., mayor Hazel McCallion during the announcement, noted that it is “high time to change.”

“One of the very first things I had the honour of doing as the new finance minister was asking the governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, and his colleagues at the bank whether it’s in fact possible to put a woman on the bank note,” said Morneau.

The finance minister said he was told the central bank had been looking into the possibility for some time and was keen to support the initiative.

Source: Canadian woman will be on next series of bank notes, Trudeau announces – Politics – CBC News

Today’s feminist problem? Black women are still invisible: Anderson

More than an element of truth in this critique by Septembre Anderson:

A few weeks ago, I got a press release about the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in Canada. The e-mail goes on about women’s suffrage and the commemoration of that fight for a few hundred words and then begins to catalogue when women got the right to vote throughout the country – women in Manitoba in 1916, those in Newfoundland in 1925 and so on and so on – and then, in brackets, near the end, “Unfortunately, the right to vote was withheld from indigenous women, as well as those of Asian and African descent, for years longer.”

Nowhere in the press release was there any mention of how anti-black many suffragettes were; how much of these women’s activism was about gaining the vote for white women only; and how championing eugenics for racialized women was also part of their politics. Heck, there wasn’t even a mention of when indigenous, Asian and African women got the vote in Canada.

And this is the problem with feminism as it exists today. Black women and other women of colour are continuously rendered invisible beneath the “women” banner. The default definition for women is white women – those with the most systemic power – and the issues of the most privileged of us take precedence over the trials and tribulations of the least privileged of us.

We saw this clearly during the Academy Awards. While white women used the hashtag #AskHerMore to bring awareness to and combat sexist reporting on the red carpet, women of colour were bringing attention to #OscarsSoWhite, created by movie critic April Reign, to protest the lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominees.

We saw this with the celebration of Justin Trudeau’s recent cabinet – that boasted gender parity “because it’s 2015” but not racial parity. We see this with continuing discussions about the gender pay gap – but there’s a greater disparity between race than gender.

While white women experience the repercussions of sexism, racism isn’t one of the barriers that they have to come up against. It’s actually one that benefits them. The unique issues that black women have to deal with are far too often overshadowed by the issues that white women deal with, leaving those of us with less institutional power to wait and hope for a trickle-down equity that history has shown us will never come.

Black women exist at the intersection of blackness and womanhood and, therefore, our feminism isn’t a single issue struggle. Our battle for equity and inclusion is with both misogyny and systemic anti-blackness, from within and without feminist circles. Feminism, as it is popularly practised, whitewashes the experience of racialized women and does not acknowledge the intersectionalities within womanhood. It does not acknowledge the distinctive ways different women experience sexism.

Through this myopic definition of womanhood, mainstream feminism is embroiled in elevating the women closest to the top rather than those struggling and suffering on the margins.

In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power. Bank boards, newsrooms, hospital boards and executive positions are all spaces where white women see themselves better represented.

Source: Today’s feminist problem? Black women are still invisible – The Globe and Mail