The Current

Breaking up the Old Boys club: #MeToo is encouraging women to run for office

The number of women running for office in the U.S. has soared since the election of Donald Trump.
The Women's March in Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on January 21.

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As the #MeToo movement hits Parliament Hill, the alleged culture of sexual harassment could become another factor discouraging women from entering politics.

Nancy Peckford is the executive director of Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to electing more women to all levels of political office in Canada. She thinks the problem is an institutional one.

"What we know is that most of Canada's political institutions have not adapted to modern times," she said.

"They're not modelling 21st-century workplaces, and many of them don't even have clear sexual harassment policies."

Despite this, Peckford has seen notable increases in the percentages of female candidates running for office at the provincial and territorial level in the past 18 months.

She firmly believes having more women in positions of power can bring about change, but that will take time and hard work.

"No one women can come in and radically change the workplace, even in the top position," she said.

The energy of the #MeToo moment is helping, she said, but can't be taken for granted.

Gwen Combs said the election of Donald Trump prompted her to run for office. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

In the United States, that energy has seen the number women running for office soar since the election of Donald Trump. 

One of those women is Gwen Combs, a first-time Democrat candidate running for Congress in Arkansas.

"I had to stand up and take some action, some real action, that could make a difference not only for myself but for other women around me, other people around me and for future generations," she told The Current's guest host Gillian Findlay.

"It made me ashamed to know that people of this country reached a point that they were willing to elect someone who had been accused of sexual violence himself. And to know that I was represented by a congressman who endorsed him despite it."

She doesn't think sexual harassment allegations put women off getting into politics, rather the opposite.

"It is empowering to know that you are not alone in an experience. And when we have the shared story that we can communicate... it gives us strength in numbers."

Listen to the full audio near the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

This segment was produced by The Current's Exan Auyoung and Ines Colabrese.