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Calgary group ‘Ask Her’ aims to get more women into local politics

Diane Marie Colley-Urquhart.
Diane Marie Colley-Urquhart. Michael King - Global News

A Calgary group aiming to get more women into politics is getting a jump start on the 2021 municipal election.

Members of “Ask Her” are raising awareness of gender-equality issues on Calgary city council.

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On Thursday, the group held its first installment in a speaker series that explores why Calgary does not have gender parity on its council.

Philpott quotes Debbie Walsh: Women run to do something, men run to be someone
Philpott quotes Debbie Walsh: Women run to do something, men run to be someone

The panel featured two of Calgary’s current councillors, Druh Farrell and Diane Colley-Urquhart, along with Okotoks city councillor Tanya Thorn.

Gillian Hynes, who serves on Ask Her’s board of directors, said the group’s goal is to be a place where women wanting to run for office can get help kicking off their political career.

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“We want to be a resource hub,” Hynes said. “We’re here tonight to start the conversation about counting women in to run for municipal politics.”

Hynes said the speaker series is not the only resource Ask Her is bringing to Calgary.

“We’re launching a program in 2020 called ‘Prepare Her,’” said Hynes. “It’s an experiential learning program where we want to give women the learning…and tools for what it takes to run for municipal politics.”

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Farrell, one of three female councillors who spoke at Thursday night’s event, hopes to encourage more women to run for office.

“We need more women on council,” Farrell said.

“We need councils to reflect the citizenry and the demographics of the people we serve.”

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‘Clear perceptual barriers’ that prevent women from entering politics: study
‘Clear perceptual barriers’ that prevent women from entering politics: study

Farrell said meeting with other women and asking why there is a gender imbalance is the first step to addressing the issue.

“Politics itself is very combative. Women tend to stay away from that,” said Farrell. “Maybe we can change politics a bit and make it more collegial and more dialogue.”

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Meri Topchieva is planning on running in the next civic election and said many of the hurdles current female councillors face, she’s seen herself.

“I have previously run for student union and I have definitely experienced some of the sexism that comes with a campaign or through the election itself,” Topchieva said.