In honour of International Women’s Day, Mount Saint Vincent University kicked off its week of events Monday with a panel discussion on women in politics.
The all-female panel spoke about the importance of women in government and the difficulties they face.
Joanne Hussey ran for the NDP in Halifax West in last year’s federal election. It was her first time running and she came in third.
Hussey, 37, spoke about her experiences as a female candidate, saying she was not taken seriously and had difficulty funding her campaign.
She said more women candidates are needed in order for representative government to exist.
“I think the issues and concerns that are important to women are only going to be taken seriously in politics when women are taken seriously in politics,” she said.
Though the number of women running for politics has been growing steadily, women are still a minority in public office.
Nine women ran during the 2015 federal election, four more than the previous election. None of them won in their respective ridings.
Even in student politics, women are not being represented proportionally. A study published by StudentsNS found that between 2007 and 2012, women represented nearly 60 per cent of the student body at the top nine Nova Scotia universities, but made up only 45 per cent of student government.
Michaela Sam, former student president at the University of King’s College and current chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students Nova Scotia, said there are challenges women face in both politics and government.
She cited one instance when her looks seemed to matter more than her ideas. She said her appearance in one of her promotional photos was considered a higher priority than her platform and ideas.
“It was about how god-damn shiny my forehead was,” Sam said. “I can tell you it’s something that my male counterparts do not have to deal with.”
She said these pressures can lead to women doubting their abilities.
“More often than not she will say that she doesn’t think she’s capable,” Sam said.
Hussey said the old ways of politics need to change.
“Our institutions are built on the assumptions of the white male experience,” Hussey said. “What we need are institutions that reflect the range of experiences in society.”
El Jones followed the discussion with a spoken word performance.
Mount Saint Vincent will hold panel discussions throughout the week on a number of different women’s issues.