Female MNAs set aside partisanship to share their challenges
Of 125 seats at the National Assembly in Quebec City, women hold just over a quarter of them – and they put partisanship aside to bond over bigger battles.
Liberal MNA Maryse Gaudrault is one of those 33 women, and serves as the deputy speaker.
“I am like a referee, when we are in the middle of debates at the Salon Bleu. I am the one who is taking care of the discipline,” she said.
Only six women have sat in the speaker's chair in the history of the National Assembly.
“I think it's a very important role and the fact that I am a woman, it makes a difference. They're a little calmer when I am in the seat of the president,” she said.
Gaudraultis also the president of the Circle of Women Members of the National Assembly, where partisan politics are set aside to deal with the commonalities of women in their field.
“They share their life experiences and opinions and their riding realities and I think it's the only place where we can be ourselves, women, in the political environment,” she said.
The CAQ representative on the circle's five-member committee is Chantal Soucy, a single mother of three teens.
“Work and family - it's a big job,” she said, explaining that work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges for young female politicians.
“We don't have daycare here. It's a simple solution, but it's a good solution for the women -- or the men -- who have young kids,” she said.
One of the newest members of the National Assembly, PQ MNA Catherine Fournier, is certainly considering the matter. At 24, she is the youngest woman ever elected to the National Assembly.
“Obviously I want to be a mother one day, so of course I have those questions in mind, but I've been in politics for a few years. I was involved in the Parti Quebecois since I was 18,19 years old, so I really knew that's what I wanted to do,” she said.
But being a woman in politics requires a particularly thick skin. Quebec solidaire MNA Manon Masse knows that all too well. She has been ridiculed and told she doesn't look the way a woman should.
“It's very hard because we have a lot of critics - not on what we say, but who we are, our bodies, the way that we dress,” she said.
Gaudreault said those challenges help define female MNAs.
“Women that are here are very strong. They had to go through a lot of obstacles to be elected and to be a part of this National Assembly, so they are role models for all the women in Quebec and elsewhere,” she said.
Despite different challenges and political views, they have this in common: they hope more women will decide to follow in their footsteps.