Women interested in running for political office attended a campaign school event in Edmonton on Saturday.
The event, organized by Equal Voice, saw approximately 40 participants, including some who have filed notices of intent to run in the upcoming municipal election and those who are still on the fence.
Dawn Newton said running for councillor was always at the back of her mind.
“I’ve actually had a lot of people encourage me to run. I’ve been tapped on the shoulder a few times,” Newton said.
While she is taking the possibility more seriously though, she is still undecided.
“I’ve had a very successful corporate career and a career in business. This is a much different direction to take that work,” Newton said.
Though she acknowledged there are some other challenges, including attacks on social media faced by female politicians, notably Premier Rachel Notley and Sandra Jansen.
“We’ve certainly seen a lot of coverage around female politicians being trolled on social media, having to deal with really challenging expectations on them that their male counterparts don’t see.”
Saturday’s event was a chance for participants to learn various campaign skills, such as communications, door knocking and fundraising.
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Lana Cuthbertson, chair of Equal Voice – Alberta North, said there is a need to have a specific workshop for women.
“[It allows] them to think about the possibility. Having a campaign school specifically for women makes some women take notice of that, ‘oh there’s a campaign school for me specifically, I’ll think about that,’” she said.
Cuthbertson said there are barriers that prevent women from approaching politics.
“Women are less likely to advocate for themselves. They are more likely to volunteer for a candidate behind the scenes. A lot of women feel less comfortable about fundraising, asking for money,” she said.
Cuthbertson said she would like to see women make up 50 per cent of candidates in the municipal election.
“A lot of people talk about ‘well I’d like to vote for the most qualified candidate’ and that makes sense to us. We want to make sure there are enough women out there to be voted for,” she said.
Ward 2 Councillor Bev Esslinger is the lone female councillor in Edmonton. She said Saturday’s turnout was exciting to see.
“We all bring our own perspective to the table. I think every order of government should reflect the community. Ours is 50 per cent women, 50 per cent men,” she said.
“I can only sit on one committee at a time. I’m not at all the committees. To have women on all the committees would be really important.”
Her advice to interested women?
“Go for it. It’s a noble cause. It’s a great opportunity to serve the community. But it’s like a driver’s license – if you don’t get it the first time, most people take the test again. Keep running because you learn each time.”
Esslinger said the campaign school will give women the tools they need to give them confidence.
“At the end of the day, we all want the very best candidate regardless of background and gender. I hope I’m elected not because I’m a woman but I’m the best candidate,” she said.
“Until we get great candidates out there, how are they going to get elected?”
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