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Women still under-represented in Nova Scotia politics: ‘We need those voices’

Women still under-represented in Nova Scotia politics: ‘We need those voices’
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The deputy mayor of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s deputy premier and the deputy prime minister of Canada are all women, but the number of females in elected positions in the Maritimes remains far lower than that of their male counterparts.

Women who have chosen a life in politics say more needs to be done to encourage others to let their voices be heard.

Of Halifax’s 17-person city council, only two are women, and only one-third of MLAs elected in the 2017 Nova Scotia General Election were female. Two of them have recently stepped down, lowering that figure even further.

Increased diversity of thinking, better focus on issues that affect women (who make up roughly half of the population) and more well-rounded decision-making are key reasons why female representation is a benefit for elected bodies.

Halifax women share their stories, goals for gender equality at the Girls Inspire Girls Summit

Halifax women share their stories, goals for gender equality at the Girls Inspire Girls Summit

But while the same pros are always brought up when talking about increasing those numbers, many of the same cons arise as well, when women consider moving into the political sphere.

One of those cons is heightened criticism, says Halifax city councillor and deputy mayor  Lisa Blackburn .

“Comments about what they wear, how they do their hair, whether they wear makeup, those are all part of the discussion,” Blackburn said. “It shouldn’t be, but for women it is.”

Halifax Councillor and Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn

“My weight is always brought into question,” explained Pam Mood, Yarmouth mayor and president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.

“They say you have to have thick skin to become a politician and I tell people if I lose 50 pounds there’s going to be trouble because the thin skin’s going to show up.”

“[The criticism] is so ugly it causes young women to come to me and say ‘I would love to get involved but I just can’t put my family through that. ”

While work is being done to change those hesitant attitudes, Blackburn and Mood both say it won’t happen overnight.
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