February 28, 2011
Shelly Fralic, a columnist at the Vancouver Sun, has dared to ask the question that many of us are wondering about the new leader of the B.C. Liberals, but are afraid to say out loud. Can a woman be elected as premier of B.C.?
I have no problem with it, and I’m sure most people — if asked — would say the same thing. A person’s gender should have no bearing on how we judge their ability to lead. But let’s face it: even though several women have led parties in power in Canadian provinces, only two have ever led their party to victory in an election. They are Liberal Catherine Callbeck in Prince Edward Island and Liberal Pat Duncan in the Yukon. It’s not exactly a stellar record.
Already, I’ve seen a headline referring to Christy Clark as Premier Mom. I’m sure it was meant in good humour because she attended her son’s hockey game on Sunday. Still, I find it unimaginable that any of the men would have been called Premier Dad in similar circumstances.
My theory is that pop culture plays a big part in our reluctance to trust women at the helm of the country or a province. In the movies, for example, the leader of a nation is almost always portrayed as a middle-aged or older white man. Plus, he’s usually tall and has at least rugged good looks. This is the image of leader that we’ve been brought up to trust for generations.
As an experiment, I went to a website that specializes in stock photos and did a search on “leader.” I got plenty of images of men standing tall in business suits. Oh, there some women, or I should say girls — they were cheerleaders.
Yes, we’ve got a long way to go.