Fred Groves’ Elect Her: Still Struggling to be Recognized as Equals is an ambitious work that tackles the important topic of how to improve the male-female ratio in elected positions in Canada. Groves makes the case that Canada lags behind many other countries in the world in terms of female representation in elected positions. Through interviews with female politicians and political aspirants past and present at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels, he sheds light on the rewards and difficulties of running for office. In addition, he provides insight into efforts to improve female representation through initiatives like “Daughters of the Vote” and “No Second Chances.”
Though Groves provides a fair bit of data about female representation at various levels, the book is livened by first-person research. Groves conducted interviews with over 60 female politicians, and the effort pays off in his ability to provide illustrative quotes.
The list of barriers identified by female candidates holds few surprises. Women, for the most part, tend to shoulder much of the responsibility for child- and elder-care, leaving a certain number of female political aspirants unable to make the time commitment due to other demands. Many women don’t have access to the same financial network for campaigning as their male counterparts. Female politicians tend to be placed under greater scrutiny than men. Groves alludes to a comment by former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps who “quantified the sad main reason why women shy away from politics. When they’re asked to speak up, they’re immediately labeled as ‘nasty bitches.’ ” (p. 7) Even when political parties succeed in recruiting female candidates, they sometimes assign them to less-winnable ridings. And the list goes on.
Though it’s a tough challenge, getting more women involved in politics has potential upsides, one of them being that the more diverse voices you have at the table, the better you understand the issues from all viewpoints.
Groves structures the book by topic, which helps to mitigate the slight sense of repetitiveness that crops up when reading the comments of the various interviewees. Chapters address topics such as the first women elected to office, female mayors, female indigenous leaders, female politicians in Toronto, and so on. Groves also devotes individual sections to initiatives that have been undertaken to increase female representation.
The inclusion of an index at the end of the book provides a helpful reference for a reader or researcher who wants to zone in on a specific individual or topic.
Elect Her illustrates how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go. The quote from the pre-1917 Elections Act, “No woman, idiot, lunatic, or criminal shall vote,” (p. 24) gives some indication of the attitudinal challenges faced by trailblazers like Agnes Macphail, the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons. At the same time, statistics regarding female representation show some encouraging signs, even if we haven’t yet achieved parity.
The book’s broad scope means that we don’t necessarily get a deep dive on all of the candidates. That being said, Elect Her is a worthwhile initiative that sheds light on an important issue—and may just serve to inspire future female leaders.
About the author: Fred Groves has worked as a journalist at several newspapers in Southwestern Ontario including his hometown, Essex Free Press. He is the author of Rising From the Rubble: the 1980 Essex Explosion. Fred lives with his son Ryan and their four-legged supervisor, Fluffy the cat.
- ISBN-13: 978-1999177911
- Publisher: Crossfield Publishing (Jan. 1 2020)
- Pages: 278
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