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Sexism biggest barrier for female municipal leaders: study


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Interruptions, patronizing language, and pet names are just some examples of the sexism women in Canadian municipal politics encounter as a small study from Simon Fraser University finds gender stereotyping remains the biggest barrier for ladies entering the field.

The study, led by Masters of Public Policy student Halena Seiferling, interviewed seven female councillors and mayors from Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, Regina, and Saskatoon.

“Women would tell me at how they would get interrupted more at meetings or they’re talked down to,” Seiferling says. “Other councillors would call them darling or would say ‘don’t worry your pretty little head.'”

She says despite a public perception that municipal politics is less competitive and therefore less sexist, she found there was little data on sexism in municipal politics.

“Sometimes fellow staff would think they are too emotional, too willing to be cooperative and not aggressive enough, but in other cases when women were being what’s seen as more aggressive, they’d be judged for that as well.”

The sexism was not limited to colleagues either. She says one woman mayor kept hearing she didn’t look like a mayor and wondered why until her staff figured out it was likely because she was the first female mayor. Another example was how media portrayals of women politicians focused on their hair, looks and sound rather than their policies.

Although her own study represents only a small section of women in politics, Seiferling hopes her study will push local governments to

Unlike Vancouver, many cities do not have parties in municipal elections, making it harder to promote women to run, Seiferling says. However, cities can still make an effort to have parity of men and women on appointed advisory boards and committees.