I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ottawa, through the Women in House Club at Western University. Every year this club sends approximately 20 female students to the capital to shadow a Member of Parliament for a day, attend committee meetings as well as a brunch with women working in the field of policy and advocacy. I was partnered with Isabelle Morin, the representative of the electoral district of Notre-Dame-de- Grâce—Lachine as a member of the New Democratic Party, for the day. As her mentee, I sat in at the House of Commons during Question Period; I spoke to members of her staff about her constituents, the NDP platform, and the upcoming national election. During lunch we talked about her experiences as a female politician. Shadowing Isabelle was an incredible experience. She was very honest about her experiences as a female politician (generally positive but aware that for others their experiences would be different), some of the perks of her job (serving her constituents and travelling), and why she supports the NDP (her belief that Jack Layton would have been an amazing Prime Minister). She even suggested that, if I was interested, I could help draft a bill that she would try to get passed, a hands-on opportunity that would add to my personal growth.
I also attended a policy and advocacy brunch with the following guest speakers: Isabelle Metcalfe, a public affairs consultant and lobbyist; Amy Kishek, the founding President of the Equal Voice National Capital Youth Chapter; Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui, a community activist on the board of the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization; and Lynne Hamilton, named one of Canada’s Top 100 Lobbyists in the Hill Times, shared the various opportunities that were available to women interested in professions in the field of politics aside from being a politician.
All four ladies shared valuable information and some memorable nuggets that I am eager to share: a) as a woman don’t be ashamed to want to earn a high income in your profession, b) be a lobbyist as opposed to a planner, it is the same job description but because lobbyists are primarily men the pay is higher, c) if you are a people person consulting is the right profession for you, d) it is possible to be a senior political aide and a new mother at the same time; difficult but possible, and e) the income and promotional prospects for political aides working in Parliament Hill are impressive.
My biggest takeaway from my time spent in Ottawa is that although politics is still a man’s game there are opportunities in the political world for women to do good work and earn a solid income. Also there are many brilliant women that you can contact for advice and support to make sure that you and other women are ready to play the game.
Aramide Odutayo is a student at Western University studying political sciences.