In 2010, forty Torontonians ran for mayor. The media selected six candidates as frontrunners, and only one of them was a woman. By election day, Sarah Thomson had dropped out of the race, along with Rocco Rossi and Giorgio Mammoliti. The remaining frontrunners were all men.
Sadly, this isn’t surprising in a political world where the last three leaders of our three levels of governments have the following names: Stephen, Paul, Jean, Dalton, Ernie, Mike, Rob, David & Mel.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how female candidates have done, overall, in Toronto’s last three municipal elections.
These numbers are disappointing, and groups like Equal Voice are working towards change.
But perhaps even more interesting than the disproportionate amount of men on City Council, is the role that women are currently playing at City Hall.
There are seven Standing Policy Committees that report directly to Council. In 2010, when they announced who was going to be the Chairs of each Committee, the list of names was stunning:
Giorgio, Michael, Paul, Cesar, Norm, Peter & Denzil. Wow. Seven Committees. Seven male Committee Chairs.
Then they announced the Deputy Mayor: Doug Holyday.
Here’s the group photo:
Is this 2010, or 1910?
To be fair, two women were invited to sit on the Executive Committee, along with the seven Chairs and Deputy Mayor, but they were included as “At Large” members – without having their own Committee – along with two other men: David Shiner and Mike Del Grande (Chair of the Budget Committee). So the math looks something like this:
There are three major exceptions to this gender pattern:
1) Frances Nunziata was chosen as the Speaker. But her job is to impartially implement Roberts Rules, not to steer policy.
2) Karen Stintz was appointed as Chair of the TTC. But as soon as her policy direction veered off course from the Mayor’s, she was out-voted….. by five men. (Norm, Vincent, Cesar, Frank & Denzil).
3) The Affordable Housing Committee is chaired by Ana Bailão, but her position was selected by the Committee members, rather than the Mayor or Council. More importantly, her Committee doesn’t report directly to Council and her position doesn’t give her a position on Executive.
So overall when it comes to leadership appointments, the women at City Hall clearly have not been given much of a role.
Now let’s look at City Council votes. This is where is gets really interesting (after all, what’s new about women being excluded from leadership positions?)
Personally, I find this to be fascinating:
Or, you can break down the same vote, in another (more accurate) way:
And, of course, how could we not look at the Gary Webster vote:
And that’s just transit. The same trend applies to other important Council votes – such as Josh Colle’s budget motion to preserve social services and programs.
So what does all this mean? I’m not sure. Maybe it means nothing. Maybe it means a lot.
To me, it seems that the women on Council are more likely to embrace moderate evidence-based positions and seek compromise, while the men are more likely to embrace policies that are driven by slogans and ideology. Women Councillors also seem more likely to act independently, rather than following orders. And that’s why we should care about the lack of representation of women on Council and their almost complete shut-out of leadership positions.
Of course, some will argue that this blog post is ridiculous, and that I’m simply generalising and/or perpetuating stereotypes. That’s what the comments section is for.
Regardless, I think most people would agree that our society would benefit from having more diversity in our governments, and more women in positions of leadership and power. If you want to make a difference, here are a few groups you can get involved with:
Happy International Women’s Day!