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Rural Women's Leadership in Atlantic Canada

Rural Women's Leadership in Atlantic Canada: First-hand Perspectives on Local Public Life and Participation in Electoral Politics

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 176
  • Book Info
    Rural Women's Leadership in Atlantic Canada
    Book Description:

    Most people are aware of the large and persistent gender imbalance in elected office at all levels of government in Canada, but few appreciate the far greater imbalance that occurs outside of large cities. This deficit arises not from rural voter bias, but from low numbers of female candidates running for winnable seats. The question of why there are so few female candidates has been difficult to answer, largely because we know so little about the pool of potential candidates.

    Rural Women's Leadership in Atlantic Canadapresents results from a regional field-based study, which confronted this challenge directly for the first time. Louise Carbert gathered together small groups of rural community leaders (126 women in all) throughout the four Atlantic provinces, and interviewed them about their experiences and perceptions of leadership, public life, and running for elected office. Their answers paint a vivid picture of politics in rural communities, illustrating how it intersects with family life, work, and the overall local economy. Through discussion of their own reasoned aversion to holding elected office, and of resistance encountered by those who have put their names forward, the interviewees shed much-needed light on the pervasive barriers to the election of women. Carbert not only contextualizes the results in terms of economic and demographic structures of rural Atlantic Canada, but also considers points of comparison and contrast with other parts of the country.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7951-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    Leadership has many faces. It encompasses a broad spectrum of activities and behaviours that can be lumped together under the rubric of civic engagement. At the highest levels of responsibility is the visible tip of the iceberg: elected office. This is a good place to start a book on rural women's leadership because it is here that we find a well-established and unambiguous indication that something important is amiss in rural areas when it comes to women's participation in public life. Simply put, far fewer women find their way into elected office in rural areas than in urban settings, no...

  5. 2 An Interview Series in Atlantic Canada
    (pp. 23-33)

    To carry out the study as described in the introduction, I organized and moderated a series of fourteen discussion groups across the four Atlantic provinces, which involved interviewing 126 rural women community leaders over an eight-month period in 2000. Seven of the meetings were held in Nova Scotia, two in New Brunswick, one in Prince Edward Island, and four in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Two were held in areas that have a strong Acadian presence and included bilingual participants. Each community that I visited had a population of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, and most were much smaller than...

  6. 3 Leadership Characteristics of the Interviewees
    (pp. 34-56)

    Before we can interpret what the interviewees in this study had to say, we should learn who they are, at least in regard to the topic at hand. This study interviewed women who were selected on the basis of their specialized leadership characteristics. Most of them occupy what can be described as a mezzanine level of political participation. While few of them are well-known public figures who are widely recognized on the provincial or national level, it is equally true that they are distinct from the general population, based on the discriminating selection process. What distinguishes them, and how much...

  7. 4 Images of Leadership
    (pp. 57-74)

    Throughout their careers successful politicians develop, nurture, and protect a public image created expressly for public consumption. This persona is usually an exaggerated and, hopefully, enhanced characterization of the individual’s natural strengths that resonates with cultural or national imagery. It thus appeals to voters’ self-perception as citizens of their nation and inspires their confidence in a leader. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s presentation of himself as ‘le petit gars de Shawinigan,’ for example, resonated with mainstream Liberal Party voters, in spite of his impressive credentials as a lawyer and businessman. In the United Kingdom during the 1980s, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher...

  8. 5 The Slushy Intersection between Politics and Family
    (pp. 75-97)

    Atlantic Canada is reputed to be distinguished by a particularly strong sense of family. While most everyone claims family closeness as a distinctive cultural characteristic, there are solid grounds for making this claim about Atlantic Canada. The majority of people, particularly in rural areas, are descended from immigrants who arrived in a series of waves from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Since then largescale immigration has ceased, and as a result the basic social structure of the region remains nearly as formed almost two centuries ago, more closely resembling that of Europe than any other part of North America...

  9. 6 The Slushy Intersection between Politics and Occupation
    (pp. 98-113)

    A rural woman’s job defines how she spends a good deal of her time, perhaps second only to her family. If she has paid employment, as do most of the interviewees in this study, some of her most important relationships are with the colleagues, customers, and clients she encounters at work. These activities and relationships have significant ramifications for participation in public affairs outside of her home or workplace. It is truism in the study of political behaviour that occupation is a key socioeconomic resource on which people draw to exercise power in a liberal democracy. The skills and networks...

  10. 7 The Slushy Intersection between Politics and the Local Economy
    (pp. 114-139)

    One of the strongest common themes to emerge from this study was the respondents’ moral aversion to and disapproval of political life as they understood it in their local environment. The two preceding chapters touched on some specific topics that elicited their disapproval, in terms of how politics intersects with their own families and jobs. However, a good deal of the discussions conveyed a more pervasive uneasiness that goes beyond individual-level characteristics, taking the discourse to the level of systemic forces that encompass the entire community. In one group after another, interviewees initiated and carried out intense discussions about how...

  11. 8 Structural Contours of Rural Women’s Leadership in Atlantic Canada
    (pp. 140-164)

    From a wide variety of partisan perspectives and geographical locations, rural women leaders interviewed in this study described specific dynamics of public life in their communities that strongly influence their ambitions and activities. This concluding chapter outlines some of structural features of rural Atlantic Canada that underlie these dynamics, in an attempt to contextualize and interpret the interview results. This analysis weaves together important findings from each of the preceding chapters, and considers points of comparison and contrast with rural areas elsewhere in Canada. The resulting synthesis illuminates some of the most promising opportunities for and most prohibitive obstacles to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 165-178)
  13. References
    (pp. 179-186)
  14. Index
    (pp. 187-190)