B.C. women given right to vote 100 years ago — how far have we come?

B.C. women given right to vote 100 years ago — how far have we come?

WATCH: B.C. has come a long way since women were granted the right to vote, but as we prepare to head to the polls in May, many say there is still a long way to go. April Lawrence reports.

Things have come a long way since Carole James first walked through the doors of B.C.’s Legislature as an MLA 12 years ago.

“To see the number of women elected in the Legislature since I was first elected in 2005 is very exciting to me,” said James.

A display inside shows just how far ? from the first woman elected in 1918, to 38 per cent women in B.C.’s 40th parliament, the highest proportion in Canada.

“Having more women around the caucus table, having more women in the legislature changes the tone, changes the issues that are raised,” said James.

A century ago suffragists around the world were fighting to get women to the political table, and the voting booth.

In B.C. it was put to a referendum and the yes vote won by a landslide.

Mary Ellen Smith was the first to be elected the following year.

“Within the next decade a lot of legislation was passed in B.C. that dealt with women’s rights and children, that would probably not have been passed,” said Frederike Verspoor, an archivist with the Royal BC Museum.

Fast forward 100 years, where B.C.s Premier is a woman, as is the Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor.

But while there is a lot to celebrate, most agree there is still a long way to go.

“I think there is a double standard,” said James.

“If you’re strong you’re seen as being shrill and too tough, if you take time to consult you’re seen as weak and not a strong enough leader,” she said.

Many say women face more barriers to entering politics, although in the upcoming election on Vancouver Island, the BC Liberals have more women running than men.

The NDP, which has a gender equity policy, has an equal number of men and women, while the Green Party lags a little behind.

“Women need to be asked on average about five times to run before you get to yes, men by contrast will self present, or you don’t need to ask them,” said former campaign manager Sonia Theroux, who volunteers for the BC Greens.

There are organizations working to reach gender equity in B.C.’s Legislature by 2050 ? they will be hoping to further that goal when voters head to the polls May 9th.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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