'Sexist' attitudes discourage women in politics, Farrell says
With only three female aldermen on the last council and just one woman running for mayor, some people are wondering why more women aren’t interested in seeking public office.
According to Druh Farrell, who has represented the people of Ward 7 for 12 years, part of the answer is in how women are treated in politics.
“It still surprises me that when I read an article about me, almost without exception, it includes something about my appearance,” she said.
“Just personal comments and very demeaning sexist comments and it just came as a total shock in this day and age.”
Rebecca Sullivan, with the Institute of Gender Research at the University of Calgary, said it’s a phenomenon often referred to as the "stalled revolution."
“In the early '80s women were making headway in how we viewed gender relations, and then we just kind of stopped. We didn't get there,” she said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said society has to figure out ways to make politics more appealing to women.
But Sullivan said that’s going to be a tough sell unless there's a major cultural shift in how people view female politicians.
“When you are in political office you are a target. But there does seem to be some kind of attitude that women councillors are more vulnerable and the attitudes toward them tend to be more personal and vitriolic than, ‘I don't like their policies.’ It becomes, ‘I don't like their hair,’” she said.
It’s ironic, said Farrell and Sullivan, given that the first woman ever elected to public office in the British Commonwealth was in Calgary.
Annie Gale was elected as an alderman in 1917.