When Edmontonians head to the polls on Oct. 18, there will be at least 27 female candidates on the ballot for city council.
A total of 24 women have put their name forward for councillor in each of the 12 wards, and three have stepped up to campaign for the mayor’s seat.
Diana Steele is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the only woman to lead from the Edmonton mayor’s chair, Jan Reimer.
“I am hearing from a group of girls, young girls who have never voted before in their lives, who finally see themselves being represented,” Steele said.
“I hope to show them that anything’s possible and that being a female does not prohibit you from running for council.”
ParityYEG aims to support women and non-binary individuals in obtaining leadership positions in the community.
“It’s been a century since we voted in our first female councillor, which is Izena Ross. And we look at fast forward to 2021. We only have two white women sitting as a councillor,” said the group’s vice-chair of governance Cindy Caturao.
Bev Esslinger was the only woman on the last city council. She said that put a weight on her shoulders.
“Certainly you feel the responsibility to represent all women and there’s only one of you. So you try to think of all the other perspectives that you need to bring to the table.”
Caturao and Esslinger say there’s a number of reasons why more women don’t put their names forward.
“Two challenges. One is fundraising. Often they’re really good about raising money for everyone else, but not asking for themselves. And I think the other one is just the social context we live in,” Esslinger explained.
“Some women, they also have to balance on top of that family life. What if you have kids?” Caturao said.
Read more: Women in politics — are we there yet?
Anne Stevenson is a mother, running in ward O-day’min.
The city planner said when she was contemplating a run for council, she was surprised by some of the things she heard.
“I did have the question come up a number of times, you know, ‘Why would you run when there’s already another woman running?’ And it really struck me that we’re still trapped in this idea that women are not part of public life,” she said.
Steele was shocked by some of the things said to her, as well.
“I don’t look like a typical politician. I have had really inappropriate experiences with men,” she said, outlining how some have offered to donate to her campaign, but only with disrespectful strings attached.
“I have been told how to dress, so I’ve been asked to cover up,” she added.
“The biggest impact when you’re a woman running for any leadership spot is online harassment,” Caturao explained.
“The utter garbage that women and non-binary individuals experience being a political candidate online.”
Esslinger said she feels women are subjected to increased scrutiny too.
This time though, voters in every ward, with the exception of Nakota Isga in the west end will have the option of choosing a female candidate.
The question now is simple.
“When we look at the enthusiasm, will that translate once people vote?” Caturao asked.
Stevenson sure hopes so.
“It is in the hands of Edmontonians. If gender parity or diverse representation on council matters to you, you can choose to support the candidates that will help us get there.”
Election day is Monday, Oct. 18.