A public commitment to diversity from the party leader and party president can help attract new members and potential candidates from under-represented ethnic and racial groups. This commitment can be expressed in ways that emphasize the benefits of diversity to party financing, policy development and electoral success.
Establish a Diverse Representation Committee to lead the party’s diversity efforts. This committee should be chaired by the party’s senior leadership to demonstrate commitment to the issue.
Review nomination rules and processes to facilitate the candidacies of traditionally under- represented groups. This would include how candidate nomination campaigns are funded, conducted and voted upon.
Devote more party resources to developing the leadership capacity of under-represented groups. Use social media, technology and local constituency offices as hubs of political education, skill-building and networking.
Some urban centers have fewer seats than their population warrants, and this has the effect of reducing the voting power of the immigrant and visible minority electorate.1 Addressing this vote dilution could encourage more participation among these communities.
Parties should consider the potential benefits of proportional representation because research suggests countries with this system have a more diverse elected office.
Mentor candidates and staff to help ensure that the sometimes unspoken rules of running for office are well understood by all party members. This can also help transfer knowledge from incumbents to new diverse candidates.
Provide formal training opportunities for political staff and volunteers to help develop the capacity of visible minorities and immigrants to assume leadership positions within the party. Offering formal training strengthens the skills of all staff and volunteers.
By setting targets, political parties can be more deliberate in seeking diverse individuals when staffing their offices, running candidates and making political appointments. For example, parties can aim to field a candidate from an under-represented group in half of all seats vacated by incumbents.
Political parties can track the diversity of their candidates and political staff through surveys. This will help parties to understand the demographics of their organization and track the progress of their diversity efforts.
While goals and targets are important, they are most meaningful when they are transparent and progress is reported to the electorate.