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Political Science Women In Politics

Women on the Ballot

Pathways to Political Power

by (author) Betsy McGregor

Plumleaf Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Jul 2019
Women in Politics, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2019
    List Price

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The current political reality has awakened in many women the urgent determination to be involved — but the journey from the sidelines to political power is seldom a straight path.

Women on the Ballot: Pathways to Political Power is an essential roadmap designed to encourage, equip, and empower women to step up and run for political office. This book is about women who saw things as they were, knew change was needed, and entered into Canadian politics.

Gleaned from more than 100 hours of interviews, Women on the Ballot offers compelling stories, insights, and advice from more than 90 Canadian women with diverse backgrounds across all levels of politics and party lines.

About the author

Contributor Notes

BETSY MCGREGOR, DVM, spent sixteen years crafting public policy on science, ethics, and gender, including fellowships at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School. She then entered politics to have a direct impact on issues at the decision table. She caught the bug for politics from her mother, who had been invited by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to run for Parliament. Betsy ran for nomination three times and Parliament twice (2004, 2008, 2011), learning lessons on timing, strategy, and skills, which she shares in running campaign schools, nomination races, and leadership workshops. A member of three women’s leadership boards, Betsy wrote Women on the Ballot to equip, empower, and inspire women by telling her story and the story of over 90 women trailblazers. She lives on Clear Lake in the Kawarthas.

Excerpt: Women on the Ballot: Pathways to Political Power (by (author) Betsy McGregor)

On the day my mother turned 10 years old, 18 October 1929, women were recognized constitutionally as “persons” in Canada. It took until my mother was 41 for every woman in Canada to win the right to vote. That was in 1960. Fast-forward almost 60 years to 2019. Women have won barely 27 percent of the seats in Canada’s House of Commons.

The goal of this book is to equip and empower women to run for political office. Women on the Ballot tells the stories of more than 90 women in politics in Canada. Each is a trailblazer. Among these women are 37 members of Parliament, 21 members of provincial or territorial legislatures, 4 Indigenous leaders, 6 mayors, 4 federal party leaders, 2 premiers, and 1 prime minister.

The youngest woman in this book became Chief at 23. The oldest, a runner-up for World Mayor in 2005, served 36 years as mayor before retiring from politics at the age of 93. The women interviewed come from very different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, classes, and religions. From across Canada, at all levels of politics and from all parties, including First Nations governance, they chose to lead.

With my tape recorder in hand, I spoke with these women. My own story in politics was the thread that wove the tales together. I felt overwhelmed by the desire to give back, emotional about so many of their stories, and honoured that these women were so willing to share tales of their heights and depths. Each woman gave different reasons to explain why she had run for political office. Most said they were driven to action by issues they knew they could affect if they had power. As one woman said, “It’s the issues that keep you awake at night.” From practical tips to unexpected insights, hard-earned lessons to humorous encounters, these women share glimpses of their struggles and triumphs and, in doing so, reveal a good deal about us as Canadians. Some succeeded beyond all imagination. Others vanished at the first and hardest hurdle, the nomination. Many bottomed out and then climbed out to run again or to move on with grace. It’s not all pretty. It’s greater than grit. It’s as tough as the women themselves.
Writing this book was a three-year journey. I wrote at the lake, on the shores of Normandy, in Paris, France, and at Trent University, where the Planet café kept me fed, the gym kept me fit, and the voices of the women kept me company. The power of the stories kept me going. I remain moved by the women’s dedication to public service. .
This book began on the day I decided not to run for election in 2015. I had been a nomination candidate three times and a federal candidate twice, in 2008 and again in 2011. I loved it. Even though circumstances precluded my taking a third run, it was difficult not to be on the ballot. Making the decision not to run spurred me on to make “being on the ballot” happen for as many other women in Canada as possible by running nomination battles, teaching leadership in schools, staying engaged at the Harvard Kennedy School, running campaign schools, and writing this book.
Like all great adventures in life, especially daunting ones driven by great purpose, starting is the toughest step. Self-doubt can delay putting oneself out there. So, Women on the Ballot begins by exploring why — why risk it all? It then turns to how. It demystifies the political process. The trailblazers in this book tell tales of the accelerators, brakes, detours, and ditches they encountered along the way. Their stories of money, the media, mentors, and mothers are fascinating and inspiring.

Leaving politics at any stage of the journey is as challenging as deciding to enter politics in the first place. Women in this book are examples of the strength and courage needed to run, win or lose, and then move on.

At current rates, reaching gender parity in politics will take another 100 years. A great deal needs to change. The first step is for more women to run. Canada needs more women in political power. The women in this book have helped shine a light on the path — the premise is that if you can see her, you can be her. It’s time for the women of today and tomorrow to read the colourful stories in Women on the Ballot, seize the lessons learned, and then pick up the torch and run. It is time to dare to be inspirational. That is my dream for you.

Editorial Reviews

“With Betsy’s experience in politics and women’s leadership, she’s well equipped to write this book encouraging women to get involved in the political arena to improve our world.”
— Dr. Roberta Bondar, C.C. O.Ont. MD PhD FRSC, Canada’s first woman in space

“When Betsy writes about courage, focus, and resilience, these are attributes she showed in spades when we climbed together in the Rockies.”
— Sharon Wood, first North American woman to climb Mount Everest

“Betsy is truly a strong role model and an inspiring mentor for future young women leaders.”
— The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, first woman Prime Minister of Canada