Jessica Yang / Multimedia Assistant
These entrepreneurs are adding a feminine touch to the arts and culture business industry in the city
Being a successful entrepreneur is already a difficult enough career. However, for aspiring women business owners, there can be many more obstacles and challenges due to the lack of resources and opportunities often arising due to gender inequalities.
Fortunately, there are many ways to support women and their businesses, starting with being aware of what is available in your community and purchasing their products.
These four women-owned businesses in Hamilton highlight the steel city’s arts and culture and work towards making the world a better place, one sale at a time.
Located in downtown Hamilton on Parkdale Avenue North, studio k2 is an art gallery dedicated to supporting local artists and providing them with a place to showcase their work. They also provide multiple workshops and retreats for artists to work together, receive feedback, improve their work and make new connections.
studio k2 accepts artists of all levels, from beginners to experts, to work creatively in a collaborative and expressive environment. They even offer team-building exercises, workshops for corporations, art lessons and experiences for the public like paint nights for couples and friends.
Founded by Karen Klucowicz, a fine art painter with experience in marketing, advertising and interior design, studio k2 has allowed her to realize her vision to grow the art world while supporting fellow artists in a safe and encouraging space. If you are interested in attending a workshop or showcasing your art, this is certainly a gallery to check out!
East Bay Beads
East Bay Beads is an online store founded by Nadine Farkas and a group of women to connect people with a love for beading and allow them to collaborate on projects. They sell everything from tote bags and buttons to materials for creating beaded art like beads and tools.
East Bay Beads’ vision is to create high-quality, sustainable, locally sourced beads for people and promote their art. Their work is an example of craftivism, a form of activism, where environmentalism, solidarity and feminism blend to focus on crafts to create social empowerment, mindfulness, expression and negotiation for people.
If you’re looking for a new hobby, beads for jewelry or art or a way to support craftivism and the company’s vision, East Bay Beads’ products are what you need.
Located in southern Burlington and on the border of Hamilton on Mountain Grove Avenue, Studio Objective is founded by Isabelle Ford-Roy and Cassandra Giansante. The company aims to support women’s equality and safety while also working to improve the environment. Five per cent of their profit goes towards women’s and environmental charities in their initiative, such as Greenpeace Canada and Women for Women International, to help make the world a better place.
Ford-Roy was previously interested in geology before discovering graphic design in high school. She is now the lead graphic designer, working on the company’s social media and specializing in eco branding, print and packaging. Giansante was a former film school student, dropping out to become the lead web designer and use her passion to rebrand clients’ websites and images.
As a web design company helping clients rebrand and transform their image, Studio Objective covers everything from brand identity to designing web pages. They even go beyond technology and brand design for packaging, print and photography. If you’re looking to rebrand your company, or just create an online presence with eye-catching and clean designs, this company is what you’re looking for.
Darling Donuts is a small online baking business selling gourmet donuts with vegan and gluten-free options tailored to individual preferences. The donuts are freshly baked on the weekends and are available in the form of donut towers or with customizable messages or images for any occasion.
Darling Donuts was founded by Alyssa Lancia after a life-long passion for baking. When she developed a gluten and dairy intolerance in university, Lancia turned her focus to vegan and gluten-free baking treats. Darling Donuts began as a fun way for Lancia to express her passion for baking and it grew into the business it is now. If you’re interested in pre-ordering a tasty treat made exactly the way you like it, Darling Donuts is the bakery for you.
Women-owned businesses deserve to be recognized for their efforts as well as what they do for their community and women's empowerment in entrepreneurship. These small businesses are a few examples of projects happening around the city for women and the community by women.
By: Bina Patel
A group of talented women in Hamilton, including members of McMaster’s community, will be recognized this week for the contributions they have made, both in their immediate settings and the community at large. Each year the Young Women’s Christian Association collects nominations for the Woman of Distinction Award under a number of categories like Outstanding Workplace, Community Leadership and Health. The nominees range from students currently completing their post secondary degree to accomplished career women in their respective fields.
This year McMaster is a recurring component in some nominees’ profiles. The list consists of past and present students and includes Ashley Adile, Preethi Anbalagan, Jenelle Hinds, Sara Jama, Hanna Kearney and Lindsay D’Souza. From being a Horizons leader to founding HackItMac, their efforts have lead them to a chance at the prestigious award.
Hannah Kearney, an Aurora native and fourth-year Honours Life Sciences student recalls what led her to take on leadership roles, that the mentorship she received as a first year student and representative for the McMaster Biology Society.
“I stayed with the group until third year and I really liked that organization because it gave me a chance to meet, interact and learn from people older than myself. I’m the oldest in my family so I didn’t have any older siblings who could give me the run-down on what university was going to be like,” said Kearney.
In addition to the McMaster Biology Society, Kearney has also volunteered with the McMaster Students Union as a Spark leader with MSU Spark, Horizons as a Leadership Developer (Logistics) and currently works with the McPherson Institute to enhance Life Science courses. She cites mentor and previous winner of the YWCA award, Sarah Glen, as her inspiration.
“She was a wonderful teacher, she was so supportive and always there when you needed her. She really tried to bring out the best in other people,” she said. After graduating, Kearney plans to continue her education in healthcare.
Also in the running is Janelle Hinds, a biomedical engineering graduate who currently works at a rehabilitation hospital in Toronto.To Hinds, the opportunity to lead presented itself when she noticed something missing in her experience as an engineering student.
“I decided to do that because I wanted to mix my skills with what I was passionate about which was solving problems that would benefit society,” she explains. According to Hinds, engineering did not have enough of the practical component that allowed her to take her vision and manifest it in her community.
“I started to teach myself software but kind of struggled with the classes not being practical so I made a club called HackItMac that is now called Phase One that is all about making sure that students have that opportunity to get those software skills and it was campus wide,” said Hinds.
For Hinds, being nominated for this award means having a greater voice in the conversation about something she cares about deeply: gender equality.
“I’m really honoured because it’s not even about the recognition but it just gives me the opportunity and more authority when I talk now about women’s issues. I think as young women we tend to struggle with people dismissing us, and it’s given me internal confidence,” said Hinds. She hopes to continue her efforts both in healthcare and as an advocate for women.
The awards ceremony will be taking place on March 9 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
By: Shruti Ramesh - WGEN Contributor
As a woman in academic spaces, something that is too uncommon is the presence of women who look like me and whose names sound like mine.
It’s not that these women aren’t out there. At McMaster alone, we have women of colour who are competitive in their fields across numerous disciplines. The caveat is that spaces meant to promote positive representation for women in academia, in politics and in leadership run the risk of not adequately representing and supporting the communities they are supposed to.
An upcoming event in the McMaster community is the International Women in Science Day Conference to be hosted on Feb. 11. The purpose of the conference is to bring female-identifying science students and faculty together to “empower one another, and engage in discussion about what it means to be a woman in science”.
Upon speaking with a member of their executive and reviewing their materials, we had an overall positive impression of the team and the goals they set out to achieve with running this event. Of particular interest is the structure of the conference. It is divided into the past, the present and the future in order to chart the trajectory of the role women have played and continue to play in the field. The keynotes, panelists and workshops bring together women from different academic backgrounds to give prospective attendees a holistic perspective about what a career in science could look like and the narratives of lived experience that accompany such a career.
With this in mind, there is one facet of the conference that is important to examine further. Looking at the lineup of panelists and speakers leaves one with the impression that women in science are almost exclusively white. 11 of the 12 panelists and both keynote speakers are white women. We’d like to acknowledge that this was not entirely in the hands of the IWISCI executive team. When planning an event with speakers, you are limited by who agrees to participate and the recruitment process can be a difficult task.
Looking at the lineup of panelists and speakers leaves one with the impression that women in science are almost exclusively white.
The executives did reach out to women from diverse backgrounds in keeping with the focus on identity and interplay of intersectionality that is central to the event. However, when over 92 per cent of the space taken up by panelists and speakers is filled with white voices, it is clear more needs to be done.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the aims of this event. The narrative of women facing ongoing obstacles pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields is one that continues to repeat itself, and remains a valuable conversation. Further, it is evident the care the executive team has put into giving women avenues to share their experiences and learn from each other. It is still important to be mindful that when labeling a space as intersectional, it naturally calls attention to gaps in representation. The voices missing from many conversations about women’s experiences speak to the bigger picture. It reinforces that despite progress, there is a need to continue working to ensure feminist and academic spaces alike are inclusive in the face of systemic barriers.
I take myself back to my first Chem 1A03 lecture in September 2013. If I were to look around, I would see black and Indigenous women, racialized women and white women as well. Amidst the crowd I could be certain there would be women who looked like me and whose names sounded like mine. Moving forward, in creating spaces for equity-seeking communities, we need to be more intentional. We need to give women in all fields of the future the representation they deserve.
In 2014, the Silhouette gathered the facts for female representation in student politics. The statistics were grim. McMaster ranked eighth out of nine major research universities in Ontario for equal gender representation on student government, a gap which was most apparent in the highest-ranking positions for president and vice-president. This trend is particularly concerning given that more women than men are enrolled in undergraduate studies at McMaster. The issue lead to the creation of groups such as MSU Wants You, a working group aimed at tackling the issue of equal representation. Two years later, it is unclear whether anything has changed.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Research on female representation in politics has taken the form of what Karen Bird, professor of political science at McMaster, calls an issue of supply and demand. Voters are not biased against women. Rather, it is an issue of supply, where women are not putting their names forward as candidates. When the electoral system involved parties, the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the parties to tap women on the shoulder and recruit them to run.
Blake Oliver, vice-president (Education) of the MSU, recalled her hesitation to run when she first got involved in the McMaster Students Union as a member of the Student Representative Assembly for Health Sciences.
“I remember looking through the past Health Sci representatives, [and despite the fact that our] faculty is two thirds female, I couldn’t find a single example of a time where both representatives had been women. It has almost exclusively been both men or half.”
“I had those women who were in their own leadership positions who were reaching out and saying to me ‘you would be good for this position.’ I think that has really contributed to me coming into this position now,” said Oliver.
MSU WANTS YOU
MSU Wants You was born out of the desire to have equal opportunity for minorities within the MSU. The group was a working group last year but as of the start of this year has developed into a full committee. The sense is that the group diverted a bit away from their original plan and has been stagnant for a little while, according to Oliver, but changes are in the process of being made.
Feedback has contributed to some of these changes. People asked for an event that was more accessible, leading to the creation of Elections 101, an info session leading up to elections. A formal session appeals to people who may not be comfortable to go to TwelvEighty and speak to SRA members.
While Oliver and Bird both implied that shoulder tapping has anecdotally helped encourage women run for positions they would have otherwise shied away from, it is seen as a double-edged sword by the MSU Wants You.
“From what I have heard from the past, the shoulder tapping is something we have discouraged, actually, because the people who have closer relationships and know people in these jobs will shoulder tap people they know and it becomes a perpetuation of the canonical MSU bubble,” said Helen Zeng, chair of MSU Wants You. Posts on Facebook advertising MSU positions are often littered with comments from MSU members tagging others in the comments, urging them to apply.
“That is something that I remember the group last year was specifically against because we don’t want to make it seem like these are the only people that would be good for the job,” said Zeng.
This leaves us with a conundrum that is all the more emphasized by a non-partisan system. Bird acknowledges that at the level of student government, you don’t have parties and it is up to you whether you are going to go forward as a candidate.
The trend is even more surprising for local politics and student government. At the highest levels of power, where travel expectations might deter women who do not want to leave their community, the reluctance to run is less surprising.
“It is so puzzling that it is the case for local politics and for young women. Women are the majority in most disciplines now, at least across the university. Women tend to do better in their GPA. They have all the skills and all the ability but there is still something that is keeping women from stepping forward,” said Bird.
CLEAR CUT NOT CUT THROAT
Bird hypothesizes that the nature of the political system might be a culprit for this reluctance.
“Maybe women don’t like the fighting and the power politics or the power plays and just don’t find that kind of working environment healthy or personally rewarding, so there might be ways of shifting the environment or culture of politics to make it more inviting for women.”
Listing student government positions are valuable experiences that can help students get employed after leaving university, so it is not likely that women do not find value in the experience. Instead, Bird thinks that women may be seeing negatives that men are less likely to consider. “[This] perhaps has to do with the culture of politics, [such as] the need to take no compromise positions,” said Bird.
Here Bird sees the opportunity for intervention in the form of increased transparency about what it takes to hold a position in student government.
“If we tell candidates that compromise is actually essential and it is not about the need to take hard and fast positions... I think women would see that. Are elements of culture itself toxic, or is [there a] perception of toxicity? If we knew a bit more about the position we would see it [as less] hostile.”
Misperceptions around what it takes to do the job may also discourage women from applying if they feel they are not fit. Being clear in disseminating information about the skills that student government positions require to the student body may increase female turnout, because women will likely realize they have those skills.
ELECTING FOR NON-ELECTIONS
When looking at the distribution of women in appointed part-time manager positions in comparison to elected positions on the SRA and as MSU President, women are more likely to be in the appointed positions; women outnumber men in Part Time Manager positions but on average, not in SRA positions and certainly not for MSU president positions. In the conversation leading up to the referendum on whether MSU VP positions should become elected at large, the no side expressed concern over the fact that we may see less women running for these positions once they become at-large elections.
Bird has seen a similair phenomenon around the world, where women running in elections tend to dislike feeling responsible for mobilizing the vote singlehandedly, preferring instead to run as a part of a group. “It causes this pause. We tend to think election that is democracy, but we know across countries with different kinds of electoral systems that women are significantly far more likely to have higher seat share when they are proportional representation systems than single member districts,” she said. “Women are happy to be candidates when they are part of a list and when it is a collective effort to go out and mobilize the vote. That, along with data that women are more likely to be in appointed positions, suggests that you will see fewer women if you have exclusively elected positions.”
The University of Western Ontario had a near equal split between female and male representation in student politics when the Silhouette covered the topic two years ago. At Western, presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as a part of a team. Perhaps a similar system would increase female representation in the highest-ranking positions at McMaster.
“Critics will say that women have to learn to singlehandedly mobilize the vote, that is a skill you need to be in this position. [However] that is the skill you need to run for election but may have very little to do with the skills you need to work in that office,” Bird challenges critics to reconsider. “Some of them certainly, like the ability to communicate well, but the ability to work as a team might be better reflected and better assessed through a non-elected position.”
Oliver is a strong supporter of keeping VP elections within the SRA. “I think it could create more barriers for women to run. It is relatively equal for women who have held up positions but there have only been four women MSU presidents ever. I think part of that has to do with running at large. I certainly wouldn’t have run in an at-large election after running in the Health Sciences election, it was not something I wanted to do again.”
ON THE OUTSIDE
One of the goals of MSU Wants You is to have workshops about the barriers that minority groups may face when aspiring to join the MSU. One more surprising barrier is the disparity between the kinds of questions and concerns that are raised against females running in elections processes that you just don’t see with males.
Shaarujaa Nadarajah, vice-president (Administration) of the MSU, comments on this disparity.
“Even within the SRA, certain questions that were asked to women running [for VP positions] were ‘you tend to have a mannerism that is loud and outspoken, is that something that you think is fitting for a vice presidential role?’ If you compare that to a male counterpart, none of the males that ran for a VP position were asked any questions that was related to their personality or that was catered to a certain mannerism.”
These comments are present beyond the election process. Once women are elected and take up their positions, they still face barriers due to their gender.
Oliver is always surprised by comments that have nothing to do with her demeanour rather than her competency at the job. “I have definitely gotten ‘you need to smile more at work’, and that is the stuff that takes me by surprise that I don’t see happening with other men at work.”
In a sense, the lack of women in high-ranking positions within the MSU creates a downstream effect that propagates the gender imbalance. Having female role models in these positions allows women to know that they have equal opportunity for occupying those roles themselves. While females tend to do well when they actually run, the lack of visible representation sends the message that the kind of person that gets those positions is not usually female.
This problem is likely accentuated by the fact that the majority of people come to any single university for only four to five years. This means that if there are no female MSU presidents or vice presidents within those years, women are go through university with the impression that women just don’t occupy those positions, and are consequently less likely to run themselves.
SATISFACTION NOT (YET) GUARANTEED
These barriers further highlight the importance of groups such as MSU Wants You. Zeng says that the majority of the events this year have been focused on popping the bubble.
“We try to create sessions where people can come, ask questions, because the process can be intimidating. Having us and SRA members be accessible is very important... [while also] creating more formalized session for learning about the elections process for people who may feel more intimidated by the MSU circles,” said Zeng.
The group has also taken a look at data collection in the past. “They did focus groups to collect information on how they got involved, what barriers did you see. They also went to PTMs and took descriptions and outlines of jobs from PTMs and turned it into a document so that it is more accessible.”
While they have yet to meet since becoming a committee, Zeng says the group is able to take on whatever form the committee wants.
Oliver thinks that the group is instrumental in helping address some of the barriers that women face in running for governance. She would love to see some critical discourse surrounding the elections process and certain aspects that may create barriers for women. “For example, we don’t see any more people putting up posters on the side of the building that are several feet large. That was something that elections decided it is not something we have to do any more. I would love to talk about why do we have to have a photograph of the person on the poster, why can’t we have a poster that has branding on it, instead of selling someone’s face to the entire student body.”
It is difficult to tell if there has been improvement over the last two years. “In terms of presidential candidates, we haven’t seen much improvement. Last year only one woman ran, the year before none. However, we have seen a more gender-balanced SRA, the year I was elected it was 50/50... It is hard to say without years of tracking it, for example it is back to being more male dominated. It is definitely hard to say. I will say that two of the four women presidents have been in the last six years, so I think that is a positive sign that at least some of these barriers have been broken down,” said Oliver.
Oliver hopes to see some more changes coming from groups like MSU Wants You. “I would like to see groups like MSU Wants You to take on not only a role in education but also in policy, looking at what are the rules and how do they create barriers for women to run.”
Ultimately, and perhaps unfortunately, a large part of the responsibility falls down on groups rallying for equal representation to take a look at some of the systemic problems that lead to barriers for women, and to address them. For women who are already in leadership positions, speaking about their experience may mobilize other women consider running. While a weight of responsibility does fall on groups such as these, it is important for individuals to think critically about changes they want to see on the McMaster campus. While the last two years have seen hints of improvement, it is not time to sit back and be satisfied. We are far from that moment.
Women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work, receive 11 per cent of the world’s income, and own 1 per cent of the world’s land.
It was with that sobering statistic put forth by Kim Crosby, feminist advocate and keynote speaker that the 2013 Leadership Summit for generic viagra with echeck Women kicked off in MDCL on McMaster’s campus on the rainy morning of Saturday, Oct. 19.
This was the third year of the conference, which has grown tremendously in size since its modest 2011 inauguration in a simple classroom setting. This year, the conference featured two keynote speakers, a panel discussion, two rounds of workshops, a luncheon and a pledge-sharing period.
As the first speaker, Kim Crosby set a thoughtful and empowering tone for the rest of the day’s proceedings. She was particularly interested in recognizing the many forms of leadership that women are involved in, and lamented our lack of vocabulary and respect for the quiet, nurturing forms of female leadership.
“Our language is so inherently biased against women that there aren’t a lot of words to talk about the nuances about the ways that we build communities [as leaders],” she said.
“When I think about what women’s leadership looks like, recognizing [and looking past oppressive barriers shows that women] are being leaders all over the place,” she continued. “In every landmass, women are actually doing an enormous amount of work to take care of themselves, their communities, and their families. The fact that they’re not being affirmed or valued or recognized is part what I’m asking us to think about today.”
Most importantly, Crosby implored the audience to think about how “some of the work we need to do isn’t just about creating more space for women’s leadership, but actually acknowledging it where it’s already happening.”
Crosby talked for nearly an hour about colonization, being an ally, her practice of feminism, and the importance of women working together in their communities to create change.
The workshops in the second half of the day addressed a wide variety of topics, from gender-based violence in the workplace, to women and political activism, to “dudes and feminism” and beyond. Eleven unique workshops were offered, of which participants were invited to attend two.
All of the workshops were lead by notable women – and men – in their field. Steph Guthrie, founder of Women in Toronto Politics and recent TEDxToronto speaker, lead a session on thoughtfully curating and being aware of one’s online presence. Hamilton Spectator columnists Evelyn Myrie and Susan Clairmont talked to their workshop group about women’s voices in the media. Sandy Shaw, Director of Corporate Responsibility for First Ontario Credit Union spoke about female mentorship and networking.
Such themes of self-assertion and working together were reiterated by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s concluding keynote address. Wynne spoke primarily about empowering women, as well as about Ontario’s skilled trades issues and problems sustaining the Canadian Pension Plan.
“We need to start to shift our notion of who are our leaders,” she said. “That’s why this discussion is important. So I’m going to keep doing my part to challenge the perceptions that undermine women and [promote] ideals of fairness and equality because I don’t want young women to shy away from leadership roles. I want them to embrace them.”
Wynne talked for approximately 20 minutes and then entertained a series of critical questions. Wynne received an especially enthusiastic round of applause for her comments on the old women’s issue of prioritizing children versus careers.
“My resume’s got a big gap in it. But it wasn’t a gap, it was when I was learning the most important lessons of my life because I was raising my three kids,” she said to cheers from the crowd. “I wouldn’t be who I am without that experience and so I think it’s really important that … we value childrearing and family involvement – whether it’s men or women – as we evaluate people’s capacity to do politics.”
Despite a talk heavy on politics and low on personality, it was with statements such as this that Wynne resonated with the crowd.
While it’s hard to know what tangible actions and personal inspiration will stem from such an event, the Summit certainly addressed its mandate of redefining, redistributing and revolutionizing female leadership.
Sponsorship and Logistics Coordinator, and MSU Vice-President (Administration) Anna D'Angela is confident about the positive impact the day had on the present women's lives.
"I hope that this conference allowed women to reflect on how they are leaders now (because I believe in some way, shape or form we are all leaders) while providing them an opportunity to learn and grow," she said. "I hope it gives them the confidence to reach their full potential and make a positive change for themselves and their community."
When former MSU President Mary Koziol read the list of candidates running this year, her first instinct was to e-mail Suzan Fraser, who was president in 1988.
“Seven people running, not a single woman” was the gist of the message.
The lopsided ratio this year has raised eyebrows, but it’s not extremely unusual at this university. Historically, more men than women have run in MSU elections, and there have been other years when no women ran—1994, for example, saw 12 candidates vying for the position, all of whom were men.
When Koziol won in 2010, she was the first in 22 years to break a streak of male presidents - something she still feels is an important accomplishment.
“I thought, we need to break the streak but we also need different models of leaders out there. People need to see that you don’t have to fit a certain mold - and it’s not just about being male. A lot of people think leaders must be very outgoing, aggressive, assertive, charismatic - none of which I particularly identify with,” she said.
When she was involved in student politics, Koziol was often described as being passive.
“I think it was very assumption-based. At the SRA table, for example, I didn’t speak a lot, but that’s not because I didn’t have opinions. That’s not the same as being passive. I’m a very passionate person - I’m very assertive when it’s called for.”
Koziol is among only four women presidents elected in the history of the MSU. The three others are Ann Blackwood (1979), Suzan Fraser (1988) and current president Siobhan Stewart.
Like Koziol, Stewart has noticed the buzz around the skewed ratio this year.
“I’ve had people bring it up to me—both men and women,” she said.
The issue was also raised at the debate held in the Student Centre on Tuesday.
“People are excited when you represent them. If the electorate is diverse then you would want to see candidates being diverse,” Stewart said.
But the shortage of women running doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interest among potential female candidates.
“I know women who have considered running and in the end chose to back a male friend,” said Stewart. “Anybody can technically apply, but there are other barriers.”
It’s hard to pinpoint why more female students at McMaster don’t go out and get signatures for nomination.
Various factors could be at play in the choices women make, or don’t, about running: how women are socialized to deal with public scrutiny and view positions in political office is one of them.
“The student body has demonstrated that people are willing to vote for a strong female candidate – I don’t think there’s discrimination there necessarily,” said Koziol.
“I think the larger problem is the way we socialize men and women that leads to more men running. When women run, they have a really good chance of being elected - but they don’t [run].”
Koziol and Stewart were each the only woman running in their respective elections, which were a year apart.
“I was told repeatedly not to put women’s issues at the forefront of my platform,” said Koziol “I think that’s an interesting dynamic — that it’s okay to be female and run for an election, but you have to be careful about how proud you are about being female.”
Both she and Stewart recognized that running or being known as “the girl” in an election can lead to tokenization, although being the lone woman didn’t deter them from winning.
Stewart said she knows why she gets recognition for being a black female president, but she wants it to “not be noteworthy.”
“I’m not sure I want to be ‘the female representative’ or ‘the black representative,’ said Stewart. “You should pick your candidates based on platform and values, not gender.”
Stewart and Koziol agreed on the notion that an MSU policy to increase female representation may not work in practice, the idea being that a woman could be criticized for winning a seat because she was a woman and not because she was deserving of the seat.
“For me it doesn’t solve the bigger problems,” said Stewart.
The underrepresentation of women extends beyond the MSU to all levels of government. In Canada, women occupy roughly 22 per cent of seats in the House of Commons. The percentage is marginally higher (about 23 per cent) on municipal councils and in provincial legislature.
“I don’t think the discussion [of underrepresented women in student politics] would occur naturally within the student body. The broader society would need to change first,” noted Koziol. “I think the most important work the MSU can do is through forums.”
For women who’ve thought about or are considering running for MSU president, Koziol has some advice to offer.
“I would say, number one, seek out a mentor. You need a support system,” she said. “I’d like to see women really question why they’re not going for stuff like this. I think it’s a tricky thing to navigate: could you actually not do this, or do you just think you don’t fit the mold?”