Men must pass the baton to achieve gender parity, female leaders say

Women make up fewer than a fifth of Canadian mayors, and a group of female leaders say men in power need to pass the baton if such inequities are to change.

Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of Toronto's non-partisan CivicAction alliance, told a Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference that the World Economic Forum estimates it will take over 200 years to achieve global gender parity.

She says it's unlikely to happen any sooner unless women, and other underrepresented groups, are offered a seat at the table.

Palvetzian was one of four women speaking about gender equality, women in leadership and overcoming barriers at the conference in Halifax on Friday.

Federation president Jenny Gerbasi, a Winnipeg city councillor, said talented and dedicated women are kept out of leadership roles by a number of barriers, including weak parental leave policies and fears of harassment.

According to the federation, women in Canada represent 28 per cent of city councillors and just 18 per cent of mayors.

The UN says women should make up at least 30 per cent of decision-making positions in order to reflect women's concerns.

Broadcaster Catherine Clark, the panel's moderator, said men may feel excluded from conversations about gender parity, adding that they need to be part of the solution.