All the Council Ladies • Gender at City Hall

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:

City Hall

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!


18 responses to “All the Council Ladies • Gender at City Hall

  1. Pingback: It’s International Women’s Day | Sue Edworthy Arts Planning

  2. Thanks Dave. As a woman I can’t tell you how tired I am of seeing news photos of people who are affecting our lives showing a group of men in suits with occasionally one woman — politics, finance, business, even the arts sometimes. So discouraging and alienating.

  3. Dave, this is fantastic. Thanks for doing the number crunching and producing pie charts to paint such an effective picture. Great post.

  4. So basically female voters don’t even vote for female politicians?

  5. Thanks, Mez. The gender imbalance in Toronto politics has been consistently disturbing. As many people pointed out during the budget process, a lot of the cuts backed by the Executive Committee would disproportionately affect women…and the people most in favour of them were, coincidentally, men. We need to keep talking about this, and by “we” I mean “people other than Kristyn Wong-Tam”.

  6. Bruce Gavin Ward

    I have been heard to say frequently that i would like to see “only women” allowed to run for political office. O k, sounds like reverse sexism. But in my experience in literally hundreds of community groups, that i have been part of, or simply ‘observed’, it has been women who do all the work, all the organizing, and represent the core strength of each group. [They all function more like Mez, than Mammoliti.] I can’t help feeling that a world governed by women would be closer at least to my ideology, than that of little boys playing with, and fighting over their ‘toys’.

  7. sonjaruth1721

    Women act more independently for complex of reasons which include being excluded from the club or a variant, there is little reward in slogans and followership.

  8. Sorry Meslin, you lost me at “the media selected…”, as if The Media were monolithic, unanimous and sexist, and that all of the other candidates were somehow equally viable.

    Also, the sexism implied by blaming The Media is actually contradicted by the numbers, at least in the mayoral race. There were three female mayoral candidates, out of a field of 40. That’s 7.5%. One of those women was in the selected six. To put that in perspective, 7.5% of the candidates were also named Michael, and not even one of them was in the Distinguished 6.

    Let me be clear that i’m not arguing anything about the barriers for women entering politics–which i’m sure are not trivial–or anything about those who choose not to run but to work behind the scenes in campaigns. I’m arguing against the use of trite accusations of bias and contextless pie graphs.

    But it’s a slam dunk that if more women had run for mayor and for council that there would be more women with power at city hall, regardless of the media and the mayor’s politics.

  9. Ooops, 4 out of 40, by my count. Anyway, I think my point stands.

    I am intensely interested in knowing whether the 32% of female councillors is representative of the number of women who ran for council.

  10. Only 2.22% of Council members are openly LGBT (1 Councillor).

    60% of Council members are on twitter.

    44% of those Tweeting Council members are female

    Top 5 twitterers: Ainslie (12.1) Matlow (6.2) Wong-Tam (4.4) Doucette (3.6) Carroll (3.3). Numbers are average tweets per day.

    Top 5 twitterers: 2 males, 3 females

    Bottom 5 twitterers: Crisanti (0.1) Stintz & Minnan-Wong (0.3) Robinson & Grimes (0.4).

    Bottom 5 twitterers: 3 males, 2 females.

    I am using Stintz’s own account and not the account of her TTC Chair twitter account since that is tweeted by JP

    Female Council members with Twiiter: 12
    Male Council members with Twitter: 15

    I am going to bring a lot of these stats to my deputation on civic engagement.

    Now the Tweets per day I know different Councillors signed up at different times.

    My stats package isn’t finished, if you come to the GMC on March or April…I would like your opinions on these stats (when package is fully finished).

  11. first comment was on stats. I love playing with stats.
    now to reply on two things from your post.

    Stintz’s replacement was supposed to be Shelley Carroll. General Mammo Commanded her to be it (which I was surprised). I was also surprised Augimeri voted for Milczyn.

    Anyways, why do we need more women? I find that sexist.

    What we need is more people capable of doing the job. Look at Augimeri, she yelled at one of her constituents (downsview explosion). Every female Councillor has done things I find completely wrong (not saying male Council members are angels either).

  12. Looking at the actual council races last election it appears that the % elected is very reasonable for the amount of woman that ran.

  13. Oh hey there Miroslav, why do we need more women? Possibly because they have very different needs and issues than men. Dave’s stats tell us that men are more subway-prone than women – why is that? Because these are be-suited men who own cars and who don’t need transit – they just need everyone else to get out the fuck out of their way on the road? So they are not opining on the value of one transit system over another from the point of view of the transit user – only on their personal point of convenience. Women are more likely to understand that transit design alternatives have very different impacts on women who have to ferry around small kids and who are more likely to use transit to run everyday errands as well as just zooming to work and back. It’s not sexist; that’s a really dated concept. It is about casting a wide net. I also suspect that men don’t have much time for lower income men but that women are more sympathetic to lower income women.

    Thanks Dave, very informative post.

  14. Katherine Skene

    For those asking why we need more women in politics, the answer is simple: because women make up 52% of the population, and our government should reflect who we are as a society. (By the same standard, we should have more people of visible minority, LGBT, religious and economic diversity too.)

    What Dave’s post doesn’t point out is that the barriers that face women–and indeed, most groups–prevent this number from increasing. Women disproportionately are responsible for child-rearing, homemaking, and other family duties. They make less than men (running for office is expensive!) and have fewer connections to influential, powerful people. When they do decide to run for public office, they’re not taken seriously and judged by different standards–see Georgio Mamolitti’s comments about Karen Stintz choosing to “sleep with” the left or the MacLean’s article about Belinda Stronach’s shoe collection if you don’t believe me.

    So, yes, we do need more women in politics. And there’s nothing you can say to convince me that there aren’t enough smart, capable women out there to make that possible.

  15. Love this!
    And thanks for the shout out.
    Lesley Byrne
    Co-Chair, Equal Voice Toronto

  16. Pingback: Executive Remains Elusive for Council’s Women | politics | Torontoist

  17. Pingback: City Hall: Now Welcoming Women | Mez Dispenser

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