Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Angelia Wagner (University of Alberta)
Women and Political Executives: A Review: Brenda O'Neill (University of Calgary), Meagan Cloutier (University of Calgary) Abstract: The recent surge in empirical research examining the topic of women in political executives is heartening. Among other responsibilities, political executives play a key role in setting policy and the legislative agenda, and assume the primary role for budgets. As such, women’s access to and experiences in these positions are worthy of this increased attention. These investigations have examined the topic from several vantage points including looking at women’s access to and tenure in these positions, the substantive representation of women resulting from women’s increased appearance in these political bodies, and the impact of women’s increased access to high office on women’s overall political engagement. Large n-studies of party leaders have begun to identify the various barriers and structural impediments that impede women’s access to the highest political offices (O’Brien 2015). Rich and detailed analyses have investigated women’s access to cabinet positions and offered theoretical frameworks for understanding the mechanisms for appointment to this body (Franceschet, Annesley and Beckwith, 2017). Others have linked women’s increased presence in the highest political offices to women’s symbolic empowerment (Alexander and Jalalzai 2018). The strong growth in scholarship in a relatively short period of time necessitates a comprehensive review of findings. The goal of this paper is to take stock of the knowledge that has recently emerged on this area of the discipline, with three specific goals: first, to identify common patterns and findings across this body of scholarship; second, to integrating the knowledge developed from the various approaches that have been adopted to examine the topic; and third, to highlight any remaining puzzles and gaps.
Gender, Political Leadership and Promoting a Politics of Kindness: Jennifer Curtin (University of Auckland) Abstract: In October 2018, Jacinda Ardern became a most unlikely prime minister of New Zealand. She was handed the Labour party leadership six weeks out from the election, at age 37, and while Labour came second in terms of vote share, Ardern negotiated a three-party coalition-support agreement, unique in style for New Zealand. Nine months later she became the second prime minister to give birth while in office. In September 2018, Ardern was photographed with her baby on the floor of the UN General Assembly. These moments have been the focus of much international attention, and are important in that they are offer a challenge to traditional (gendered) political norms. In this paper I explore a different challenge that Ardern is posing for politics – one that evokes the concept of kindness. Notions of care have tended to be associated with femininity (or feminism) in politics, complicating life for female politicians seeking to project both strength and compassion (Johnson, 2013; Trimble 2017). Drawing on Ardern’s key speeches during her campaign and her first term in office, I explore her use of the term ‘kindness’ in reference to the practice of politics and to her government’s policy agenda. I draw on Johnson (2015) and ask to what extent her language might represent both a ‘battle for minds’ (and votes) and a ‘battle for ideas’ (about process) in a way that challenges dominant ideological components of individual competition and market liberalism (Ballatt and Campling, 2011).
Gender and Ministerial Responsibility in Canada: Cheryl Collier (University of Windsor) Abstract: A core, but often under-examined aspect of Canada's system of responsible government, is the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility or the expectation that ministers of the Crown are “individually responsible to Parliament for their acts and those of their departments” (Page 1990:141). While the practice of ministerial responsibility (and particularly the convention that ministers who fail to live up to their duties to answer to the House for personal and departmental political and administrative actions/misconduct should resign) has been questioned in the modern era (see Aucoin 1998; Smith 2006), the evidence of ministerial resignation and exits tied to the doctrine has been remarkably stable over time (Sutherland 1991; Collier 2017). However, less is known about the gendered aspects of ministerial responsibility. Do male and female ministers adhere to the doctrine in similar ways or are there significant differences in how the doctrine is applied across gender? This paper builds off a preliminary study in 2012 that began to examine whether and how gender impacts the doctrine of ministerial responsibility in Canada. Using a larger data set (1993-2018), this paper will attempt to map how ministerial responsibility has been practiced/experienced by both male and female ministers. As women have recently reached the milestone of 50% representation in the Canadian cabinet as of 2015, this question is of particular relevance. The study will utilize a feminist institutionalist theoretical framework and will speak to new research on gender, executives and cabinets (Annesley, Franceschet, et al forthcoming).
Obstacles to Female Parliamentary Representation in Jamaica: Tracy-Ann Johnson-Myers (University of the West Indies) Abstract: Jamaica is touted as a progressive national space for women because 70% of its university students are females. Moreover, Jamaica has more female managers in the workforce when compared to some developed countries, and has had one female Prime Minister to date, Portia Simpson-Miller. Although women have entered many domains of public life in the country, they remain seriously underrepresented in the country’s Parliament.
Women wishing to enter politics in Jamaica often face obstacles such as lack of funding; double standards about gender roles and norms; insufficient support from the two major political parties; familial and domestic obligations; and institutional and psychological barriers.
The central objective of this research is to examine barriers to women entering representational politics in Jamaica. To this end, qualitative research methodology was employed. In depth interviews were conducted with both current and former female Members of Parliament and Councillors about the obstacles they faced in getting elected, the challenges they face(d) while serving, and what they think can be done to mitigate those challenges.
The paper concludes by identifying strategies to overcome the barriers to female political representation in Jamaica, and suggests ways to increase their presence both at the national and local level.