Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.
“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.
Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.
Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.
Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.
Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.
“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.
Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.
Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.
Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.
The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.
The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.
In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.
Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.
“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.
The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.
“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.
Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.
Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.
“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.
Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.
“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.
“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”
For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.
Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.
“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.
“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”