Peter McKay the justice minister got lots of attention last week for his comments on Canadian family life. When asked why there aren’t more female judges in our country he said not as many women as men apply for the jobs. McKay suggested one of the reasons there are fewer female applicants might be that mothers have a stronger bond with their young children than fathers do. He implied that since women make their children more of a priority than men, women’s careers take a back seat to their children. Because of their devotion to their families, females who have all the qualifications to be justices don’t apply to fill open justice positions.
Although some people are upset with the justice minister for suggesting men don’t care about their kids as much as women, his comments do reflect the status quo. According to the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, studies show on average North American mothers spend twice as much time caring for their children as fathers do. Fathers have more than doubled the number of hours they spend with their children since the 1960s, but it is still mothers who are responsible for the bulk of child care
Peter McKay’s critics in Parliament say his comments about mothers prove he and his political party are living in the past and still believe most Canadians follow the pattern of family life portrayed in 1950s television shows like Leave It To Beaver. Although we all know family life has changed dramatically in the last sixty years, to be fair to McKay his observations do reflect the reality that there is still not an equal sharing of the childcare workload in most Canadian homes.
If we want to encourage mothers to take their careers more seriously, including women who might apply for judgeships, what can we do to support and encourage them? Should we provide more childcare spaces and daycares with longer hours of service? Should we pay childcare workers higher wages, to emphasize what an important and vital role caring for and teaching young children plays in maintaining a healthy society? Should we make it easier for both male and female employees to have flexible schedules so they can accompany their children to medical appointments and attend their school events? Should we make sure it is just as easy and acceptable for fathers as it is for mothers, to take a leave from work to care for a new baby or a sick child? Should we provide more publicity, support and affirmation to fathers who choose to be the primary caregivers for their children?
Statistics do back up Peter McKay’s comments about maternal devotion. However one does have to wonder if making his observations about Canadian family life on national television wasn’t just a convenient way to try and explain the fact that his Conservative government has appointed a smaller percentage of female judges than the previous Liberal government did, and that people are calling for a more transparent system of justice appointments. Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey asks why the federal government refuses to publish statistics about who applies for judgeships. Ontario does and there 50% of the applicants are women. Currently six men and three women serve on Canada’s Supreme Court and in 2013 only eleven of Canada’s thirty- six federal court judges were women.
Our country would be best served if equal numbers of men and women were our judicial leaders. There are steps we can take to make that happen if we truly want to encourage more women to apply for those positions.
Other related posts……