Where do I see Canada in the next 150 years? What an interesting question. I highly doubt I will be alive to witness it, but I have a few minor wishes for my own life time. Rather than focussing on where I think the country will be in 150 years, I am going to explain where I want it to be in ten.
Last year’s presidential election was contentious, controversial, and fascinating all at the same time. An election filled with name-calling, bigotry, media rants, and outright craziness led to one of the most shocking results ever. The world watched as Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States over Hillary Clinton. A businessman commonly recognized from his appearances on The Apprentice beat out a career politician. Many people thought this was insanity; others prepared for what seems like the start of an apocalyptic movie.
Hillary Clinton’s loss left many women wondering when it will be their turn to hold the highest office in the United States. Will women ever get that chance? How many more years would we wait to shatter the most resilient glass ceiling in the world?
Thankfully, Marie Henein, a named partner at Henein Hutchison reminds us that Canadians should not be patting ourselves on the back yet. We have also never formally elected a female prime minister. The only woman to ever hold the highest seat in our country was the Right Honourable Kim Campbell 24 years ago when Brian Mulroney stepped down from office.1
When we look at our current political climate it is hard to pinpoint when a woman will even have a chance to be Canada’s Prime Minister. Depending on the outcome of the current Conservative leadership race (click here for our post from last week covering this ), all three major Canadian parties will be led by men, assuming O’Leary wins. Since I have been eligible to vote no serious female contender has been available. So my question moving forward is: when?
While it is easy to point a finger at our neighbours south of the border for their lack of female leadership, we tend to overlook our own. In fact, out of the 13 Canadian provincial premiers only three are women. Marie Henein was right when she stated that for women in North America the message is clear, “You can hold office, just not the highest one. You can succeed, just not too much.”2 My hope is that by the time Canada is celebrating its 200th birthday this message has changed.
When we focus on the political climate elsewhere, women in other countries have fared far better than us. Sri Lanka set the stage for the rest of the world by electing its first female Prime Minister in 1960.3 Fifty-seven years ago a woman was leading a country. To many hopeful women, it would seem that we were making progress. As groundbreaking as Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s election was, another woman would not follow suit in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It took 19 years for another country to catch on, so while women were making progress, it was slow.
Currently only 33 women have been elected to represent their country in the highest office. Notably missing from the list is any North American country. The question remaining is why? What are we teaching young educated women? We are likely teaching women exactly what Marie Henein suggests, set big goals, become educated, and become successful. Just do not become too successful though because that is not what women do.
I truly hope that within the next 10 years this message has changed. It is time we change our attitudes about women in leadership. Instead of criticizing a woman’s “nasty” demeanour, it is time we celebrate her worth, ethic, and drive. Women are brilliant, capable, and deserving of the same successes as men. So by 2027 hopefully we will have one running our country as a result of her election, not as a result of merely filling in temporarily. Until then we will wait, not too patiently, for our turn.
1 Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option,” The Globe and Mail (10 November 2016), online: <www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/thank-you-hillary-women-now-know-retreat-is-not-an-option/article32803341/>.
3 Christine Zhang & Andrea Roberson, “When the rest of the world elected women leaders,” The LA Times (14 November 2016), online: <www.latimes.com/projects/la-fg-women-world-leaders/#decade60>.