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Prince George and Terrace Narrowly Meet United Nations Target for Women in Politics, Other Northern Cities Fall Short

Posted on 17 November 2014

During one of my interviews with Shari Green, a Prince George councillour from 2008-2011 and mayor from 2011-2014, I asked her about the number of men she was working with. We had both noticed the same trend.

“There had been three women [on council], when I was elected there was two, and when I became the mayor there was one,” she told me.

“I want the best person in each and every seat,” she emphasized, “[but] there’s no question that you want to have some diverse opinion and perspectives and life experiences around the table to help make that debate more robust and well-rounded.”

Green didn’t run for re-election, and her replacement, Lyn Hall, is a male. On the other hand, there are now three new female faces at the council table.  Anecdotally, I also noticed a few other female leaders from across northern B.C. either did not run again or were defeated, so I decided to delve into the numbers a little bit.

Prince George

Out of 25 candidates for council, six were women, or 24%. Five men and three women were elected, making for a 37.5% female council. The United Nations puts 30% as the benchmark for female representation, so we’re doing OK there, even when you add a male mayor and our female representation falls to 33%.

50% of the women who ran were elected, compared to a 20% of the men. Had men and women been elected at rates equal to the the percentage who ran, there would have been only one or two women. On the other hand, if men and women ran and were elected at rates that represented the actual population of Prince George, we would have had 19 women running and at least four women in government.

Other Northern B.C. Cities

Prince George has the best gender representation out of the six cities in northern B.C. Elsewhere people elect one mayor and six councillours. Fort St John, Prince Rupert, and Quesnel all elected just one woman each, Dawson Creek elected two, and Terrace elected three, including their mayor. This means Terrace is the only other city in the north to meet the 30% benchmark.

Here’s the gender breakdown of candidates for city council in northern B.C. cities:

CityMale Candidates (elected)Female Candidates (elected)
Prince George19 (5)6 (3)
Quesnel7 (5)3 (1)
Fort St John9 (6)3 (0)
Dawson Creek7 (4)5 (2)
Prince Rupert6 (5)3 (1)
Terrace7(4)4 (2)
Total55 (29)24 (9)

On the mayor’s side, Fort St John acclaimed Lori Ackerman while Dawson Creek acclaimed Dale Bumstead. Terrace and Quesnel each had one male and one female mayoral candidate, with the female winning in Terrace and the male winning in Quesnel. There were three male and one female mayoral candidate in Prince Rupert, and a male won. Add in Prince George’s two male mayoral candidates and you have 8 male and 4 female mayoral candidates.

That means in northern B.C.’s six largest cities we had 63 men and 28 women running for office- a ratio of over 2:1.

pieChart_jpg

Mayors in Northern B.C.

I also decided to take a look at the leadership of 31 communities in northern British Columbia, going as far south as Quesnel and Wells. You can look at the data here.

The gender composition of northern B.C. mayors did not change much. Going into the election, there were 20 male mayors compared to 11 female ones, and after the election we have 21 male mayors compared to 10 female ones.

pieChart_jpg (1)

Incumbents and Acclamation

Out of 11 female incumbents, eight chose to run again. Of those eight, six were re-elected. The two who were defeated were replaced by a man.

Out of 20 male incumbents, 14 chose to run again. Of those 14, 10 were re-elected. Of the four who were defeated, two were replaced be men and two were replaced by women.

I also note that of the 10 women who were elected to the mayor’s chair, four were acclaimed, while only seven of the 21 men went unchallenged.

When I break those numbers down into percentages, no great differences emerge. 70% of male candidates ran for re-election, compared to 72% for women. 71% of male incumbents were re-elected compared to 75% of re-elected female incumbents. 33% of the male victors were acclaimed compared to 40% of the female ones. With such a small data set, these are pretty small differences.

Gender Composition of Candidates

The major difference once again comes down to the people putting their names forward for election.

In sheer numbers, there were a total of 22 female candidates and 38 male candidates.

Going further, out of the 31 communities I looked at, only 4 did not have a male candidate, compared to 11 with no female candidate. That means in over one-third of the communities surveyed, there were no women running for the office of mayor.

Out of the 16 communities with both male and female candidates, men were elected 10 times, while women were elected 6 times, meaning in instances where there were both male and female candidates, the men were 1.6 times more likely to elected. Again, in such a small data set that number is interesting, but not particularly statistically valid.

Conclusion

This isn’t a incredibly in-depth overview. This is just something quick and dirty I made up to satisfy my own curiousity.

That said, there are a couple of small things that stand out to me.

First, while it is slight, male mayoral candidates were a bit more likely to be elected. As I said, out of 16 communities with male and female candidates, men were 1.6 times more likely to get be voted in. Looking at different numbers, 55% of the men who ran for mayor were elected, while only 45% of the women were. But again, this is an extremely small data set. This could be completely blown away by taking into account past elections or more communities.

Second, and this is one I feel pretty comfortable with, there is a noticeable difference between the number of men and women running for election, period. British Columbia is very close to a 50-50 split between men and women, and that holds for the communities surveyed here. And yet at a Prince George council level we have men running at over four times the rate of women and on the council level for major cities and the mayoral level across the north, we have men running for election at roughly twice the rate as women.

On a representative level, we’re doing OK when you use the U.N. targets of 30%. 33% of Prince George’s local government is female, and 32% of northern B.C. mayors are female. But as we saw with our last council, it’s very easy to fall short of those numbers. Other northern B.C. cities already are. I’d argue that if meeting these minimums is a goal, the best way to ensure we keep reaching it is finding out what can be done to invite more women to run for office.

One final point I’d make is that I haven’t seen much talk about gender composition at all. I’d guess that if these numbers were reversed, and we had elected a female mayor and five female councillours, and that northern B.C. suddenly had twice as many female mayors as male mayors, more people would be taking notice.

Update:

I just found this research from the Canadian Women Voters Congress breaking down local election candidates across the province. The trend of more men than women running holds:

“Out of 423 individuals running for mayor, only about a quarter (24 percent) are women.

“Several PhD students at the University of British Columbia have collected and analyzed the data on the numbers of women candidates running in the upcoming municipal elections. Grace Lore, PhD candidate in political science, found that in almost half (47 percent) of BC municipalities, there are no women running for mayor, and in only 15 municipalities (less than 9 percent) are there two or more women candidates for mayor.

“City council candidate numbers are similarly asymmetric. Lore found that only 88 out of 287 (30 percent) candidates for city council in BC’s ten largest municipalities are women. In the 2014 provincial election more women ran for both the NDP (38%) and the Liberals (35%) than are now running for council in most major cities in British Columbia.”

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Filed under: politics, Prince George

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