October has come and gone and with it the Calgary municipal election. Despite what was at times a heated campaign, when the results came in, Calgary City Council welcomed back ten incumbents and Mayor Naheed Nenshi for a third term. While more women ran as candidates in this election than in previous years (21 in total), Council welcomed only one new woman to its ranks – Jyoti Gondek in Ward 3. Women now make up 21% of City Council, holding three positions. In terms of civic participation, this year’s municipal election saw a higher than usual voter turnout – indicating a high level of citizen engagement and interest in the municipal election – with over 58% of eligible voters showing up at the polls.
Every year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative releases a report on the best and worst places to be a woman in Canada. This year’s report ranked Calgary 22nd out of 25 cities. It reports that Calgary continues to have one of the largest wage gaps between men and women. Calgary is also near the bottom of the rankings for cities when it comes to political leadership – this is evidenced by the fact that there was not one female mayoral candidate and only three of our City Councilors are women.
As an organization that works to advance the social and economic wellbeing of women in Calgary, the Women’s Centre believes it is important for women to be represented at all levels of government. To explore the barriers that keep women from running and holding office, the Women’s Centre hosted a Social Issues Discussion on Women in Politics on November 1, 2017. This was a panel discussion that included presentations from three women who ran for Council in this year’s municipal election: Salimah Kassam (ran in Ward 10), Esmahan Razavi (Ward 6), and Janet Eremenko (Ward 11), as well as Mount Royal University Professor Lori Williams.
Panelists shared their campaign experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. The women all described difficult encounters with people during door knocking, but they also described opportunities they had for thoughtful discussions on issues of importance to women: pay equity, affordable child care, housing and transportation. The panel focused on the experiences of women who ran for City Council, but new trustees were also elected for the Calgary Board of Education. A long-time volunteer at the Women’s Centre, Julie Hrdlicka, spoke about her experience getting elected for a second term as a Calgary School Board trustee for wards 11 & 13, and the importance of respectful dialogue between campaigns and community members.
An important aspect of our work for social change and advancing women’s social and economic wellbeing is supporting women in the community to take leadership in addressing issues that disproportionately affect them. So, to all the brave women who put their foot forward this October: we want to commend you for your leadership and for ensuring that women were visible and had a voice in the 2017 civic election.
This post was written by Bronwyn and Joan, members of the Social Policy Committee.
The next Social Issues Discussion will take place on January 3rd 2018. Stay tuned for more information.