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Women for ballots: Exploring female under-representation in politics

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  1. Introduction
  2. The value of political equality
    1. Theories of democracy
  3. The main stages of obtaining political office in Canada
  4. The perceptions of local 'party elites'
  5. Proportional representation systems
  6. A look at Allen and Dean's model
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

In spite of the tremendous political advances made by women in the Western world, clear evidence demonstrates that their participation in politics does not equal that represented by men. While women make up a little over half of the total population of Canada (51.04%), they are in many ways conspicuous by their absence from the more formally recognized Canadian political scene [Statistics Canada, 2006]. This paper will analyze substantial political and gender factors which account for this state of affairs, and will develop a strategy to address this problem. While some unfairly blame women themselves for their lack of political participation, the real blame lies with the gendered structures of power in our society, and with the male-dominated political system, not with women themselves. Political factors include such issues as the selection process for candidates, the decentralized nomination practices, and the type of political system in the respective country. Gender issues that will be covered include the sexual division of labor and sexual identity; that is, to determine whether women are bound by the static gender roles which formerly excluded them from fully participating in public office. The paper will then turn to various initiatives that can be used to address this under-representation, such as quotas, target numbers, and affirmative action measures; the way in which a party's organizational structure can be altered to influence its ability to enforce rules for gender or minority representation; and how a party's ideology can influence the commitment to female participation.

[...] For the purpose of discussing gender parity in public office, the possibility that local party elites are reluctant to support female candidates must be acknowledged. Because women usually have not developed as much political capital as their male counterparts, they are likely to be disadvantaged by the current process. Without the support of the party organization and the ?selectorate,? it is difficult if not impossible to make it to the political scene. Since women tend to be excluded from the political process, their interests are marginalized and the only way to reverse the cycle is to integrate political structures. [...]

[...] Whether or not women possess the characteristics suitable for attaining and holding public office, the search for answers in regard to women's political under-representation thus becomes very complex because the remaining impediments, most of which stem from the candidate recruitment and selection process, are informal and subtle. Political elites control the process determining the rules, the procedures, and often the criterion according to which candidates will be recruited [Pitre, 2003]. The perceptions of local ?party elites? about important characteristics for political life guide their choice among aspiring potential candidates. [...]

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