Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines with comment that a gender-equal cabinet was an obvious decision “because it’s 2015.”
Now it’s 2016, and a Vancouver City Councillor says it’s time to bring that thinking to city hall.
Andrea Reimer, the first woman to be appointed Vancouver’s permanent Deputy mayor, is bringing a motion to council tomorrow to formally require that all appointed city advisory committees be made up of at least 50% women.
It also asks the city to review the city’s funding for women’s services to ensure they’re getting an equitable share, along with a review and update of 2005’s municipal Gender Equality Strategy.
Reimer says until now, the city has had an unofficial policy of appointing an equal number of men and women to committees, but in practice it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
“We recently ran into an issue, and part of the impetus for doing the motion right now, [is] we have external agencies that appoint people to our committees. And in the case of one of our committees, 100% of the appointees from all external agencies were all men.”
She says it’s particularly been an issue on development related committees in which men have traditionally been represented, and where people often make the argument that it’s a question of merit.
But she says merit is not an excuse.
“It’s just not possible than in a city of 650,000 people… we’re talking about a committee that has 15 people on it. There must be eight qualified women out there… If they’re not coming forward through these agencies, then it is actually right now not about merit. We need to find a way to level the playing field.”
Reimer says the city doesn’t have many tools at hand to help increase equality in women’s lives, but representation is one of them.
She says ensuring women have a public place at the table ensures other women will feel confident advocating for themselves as well, helping break down lasting inequalities like women’s lower pay scales.
“If we want women to be better advocates, lets show them what good advocacy looks like from people who look just like them.”
The motion will be presented at tomorrow’s Vancouver City Council meeting.