This week, and for the first time, we learned that a major Ontario political party will put forward more female than male candidates in a provincial election. This matters. It shows that, at least for now, barriers to recruiting the best candidates and talent are being broken down, a symptom long entrenched in our political environment. While the numbers matter – and they do matter – what is striking is that this move toward gender balance is being deemed a winning strategy by war rooms across all party lines.
First, the numbers. Pending significant changes to candidate selection, it looks like representation of female candidates for 2018, will be as follows:
- Conservative Party: 32%
- Green Party: 52%
- Liberal: 45%
- NDP: 56%
Across all parties, these numbers show a marked increase in equitable gender representation compared to 2014 election numbers:
- Conservative Party: 25%
- Green Party: 35%
- Liberal: 35%
- NDP: 41%
The balance of the gender scales shifts from 34% in 2014, to 46% this coming election. Looking back even further, we see how the trend toward equity has crept (leapt?) forward with 30% female candidates in 2011, and 29% in 2007.
We know these trends aren’t just about talent, though talent is surely at play. Polling and microtargeting data dictate political strategy and the candidates parties choose to put forward. It’s only in the looking at the data that we understand the story and the story is clear – putting women forward as candidates is now deemed part of a winning strategy.