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Women & Politics London, in partnership with Diverse Voices for Change (an initiative by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities), is hosting a one-day event where prospective candidates can learn skills to run an effective municipal campaign and Londoners who want to engage more with the City can learn about civic engagement opportunities. While our focus is to encourage women of diverse communities to attend, this event is open to all.
Our day will begin with our keynote speaker Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto City Councillor, and then the sessions will be divided in two streams:
Stream 1: Campaign School – learn about fundraising, friendraising, data management, canvassing, and volunteer coordiantion.
Stream 2: Civic Engagement – learn different ways you can volunteer with the City of London and sit on their advisory committees, boards, and commissions.
The day will conclude with a panel of former women politicians who will share their journey in politics.
A more detailed agenda will be shared with participants closer to the date.
*Lunch will be provided and childminding will be available.
Getting there: This is an accessible location. Parking is available behind the building and alongside the building facing Clarence Street. There are several bus routes to get to Pathways including the 7, 3,11,15,13, and the 26.
Four years ago, I had a vision for how women could take up greater political space in this community. I knew that if women came together and reached out to other women to support and amplify the under-heard voices of our community, we could make a difference. And so I convened a conversation of politically active women and asked the question: what can we do to better support each other, include more women, and together drive political change in our community? From that conversation, a group of women took up the challenge and together we created Women & Politics.
Over the years, there have been many incredible women who have been a part of W&P, some at the board table and many others throughout the community. They have all done the hard work to amplify the voices of women and push for political and social change. I have been one voice, one person and one part of Women & Politics. I have contributed to an organization and community that I absolutely believe in and have received so much more in return. I have been lucky to love what I do, the people I do it with and the vision we’ve co-created together. I also know that part of loving something deeply is knowing when to let go, step back and recognize that others have it well in hand.
I am formally stepping down as Chair of Women & Politics. I am doing so for several reasons: to create space and opportunity for different leaders; because there is work to be done in other places; and, because my heart is calling me to new opportunities. As the founder, I will always be an enthusiastic champion of the work, the women, and the mission of W&P, but I will no longer have a formal role in the organization. My role will be as one of the many women who will benefit from the work the team of W&P does on behalf of our community. I will be working on some political campaigns this election year, supporting women and others to solve the big issues of our city, and continuing with my consulting, teaching and other community work. My love of politics and the potential it has to drive change and create better realities for everyone will continue.
Anne-Marie Sanchez was at that very first conversation 4 years ago. Since that beginning, she has been a core part of the leadership of W&P and a driving force behind so much of what we’ve accomplished. I am very pleased to welcome her as the new Chair (former Vice-Chair) of Women & Politics. Anne-Marie’s deep understanding of organizational change, her commitment to every aspect of equity, her ability to work across difference and her purpose-driven style of leadership is exactly what W&P needs at this time. Alongside Anne-Marie, Marci Easton will be taking on the role of Vice-Chair. Marci has been on the Board for over 3 years and her extensive community organizing and political experience, her strong leadership skills, her deep connection to social issues and her ability to genuinely connect with anyone and everyone means that W&P is going to thrive. Alongside Anne-Marie and Marci are an incredible team made up of Sue Hillis, Sarah Emms, Maria-Fernandez Medina, Najia Mahmoud, and Louise Pitre.
Over the last four years together, we have led campaign schools (and are in the process of organizing another one for March 24th – save the date!), run all-candidates debates, addressed how to get more diverse women into local government, educated young women on politics, successfully advocated for a gender lens in municipal policy, helped tell the stories of diverse women leaders in our community, and much, much more. We have accomplished a lot and yet I know the best is yet to come. I look forward to being part of the community of women that W&P continues to support, amplify and drive towards change.
See you in the community – the social media one and the real life one.
Title quote is by A.A. Milne.
Strong family-friendly policies and an “old girls’ network” are needed to encourage and support potential women candidates for politics, says a London sociologist who specializes in gender issues in the workplace.
“We need an old girls’ network. We need women supporting women and men supporting women as well,” said Brescia University College professor Helene Cummins, who recently received a Status of Women Award of Distinction for her work in advancing women in the workplace.
“More women are going into male-dominated fields like medicine and business, but women still tend to avoid the political spectrum. There are those multiple reasons, but they avoid conflict and aggressive social situations,” said Cummins.
She said “bully cultures” thrive in political settings and women are more likely to avoid those types of environments. There are female bullies . . . but typically, women are more communal. They typically seek to share power.”
The problem is, power isn’t being shared with women. While it’s been more than a year since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously quipped “Because it’s 2016,” when asked why he had appointed women to half of his cabinet positions, women continue to be greatly underrepresented at all levels of government in Canada.
As Cummins said, there are a multitude of potential barriers more likely to affect female candidates, many of them systemic. At city council level, those could include late-afternoon and evening meetings and absence of child care. In London, some politicians are pushing to have city council identify and address barriers to women candidates before the 2018 election.
Cummins has an instant suggestion.
“There should be daycare available,” she said, noting that statistically women continue to do the bulk of household work, which includes caring for children. “We have to have policies in place to support women in these vital roles.”
Those policies could include stricter code-of-conduct rules. Across the country, when asked why more women don’t enter politics about 30% of Canadians surveyed blame the negative environment, which includes hostility and aggressive campaigning, debating and public scrutiny.
Sheri Doxtator, former Chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames said she has experienced “sexism, racism and ageism,” while representing her community. “It’s in First Nation politics, in mainstream politics as well. People are slinging the mud, and so aggressive, and the name calling . . . it could’ve buried me,” said Doxtator, who was a facilitator at the 2016 Southwestern Ontario Women’s Political Summit and is organizing a similar event in Toronto for Indigenous women leaders.
“But it has always been my belief that the Creator has made women with such strength, honour and respect and such gifts that we will persevere. Women can deal with these things in a good way. Change the tone. I say, ‘I’m here to listen.’ For me, being a leader is not about telling people what to do, it’s about helping people become leaders themselves.”
London’s Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy didn’t mince words. “It can get ugly. I’ve had a lot of experience with ugliness over the last year. But I was elected to do this job and I love my job,” she said. “We have to rally around women, support them and show them this is something women are good at. It’s also important to mentor young women.”
Support would help with the “imposter syndrome,” often suffered by women politicians, including Ward 10 Coun. Virginia Ridley, who recalled feeling like “the biggest faker out there,” for the first six months of her term.
Baechler too said she used to be “filled with dread,” every time she pulled into the city hall parking lot during her rookie year in 1993.
“As soon as I got there, my heart would start to pound,” she told WP. “It was an environment I wasn’t comfortable in. People would be skewered. If you went against someone who was aggressive and bullying, you’d suffer a backlash.”
Baechler believes a more gender-balanced government would be a less aggressive one and has long advocated for strong networks of support around women political candidates. She – along with London’s four women city councillors — is a mentor with King’s University College’s Head Start program, which is a Federation of Canadian Municipalities initiative that aims to increase participation of women on elected council.
“Men tend to have a more confrontational and aggressive style and approach to issues. Women look in and see this yelling back and forth and say ‘I don’t want to play that game,’” she said. “The more we see women appointed to those positions, the more women say ‘ok there’s a place for me.’ Those are all important pieces to changing the system,” she said.
Initiatives such as Women and Politics “Ask Her” campaign — which encourages Londoners to suggest a city council run to women who they think would make good city leaders – could be the push some excellent potential candidates need.
“Often times, women lack political self efficacy and are less likely to seek the recognition to run for politics,” said Brescia’s Cummins. “We need to highlight those unique skills they have and nurture them to be the best they can be.”
Jennifer O’Brien is a journalist in London, Ontario.
I signed up for the event: “Diverse Voices for Change Workshop – Engaging Women in Municipal Government” with a simple goal: to meet people and hear their diverse stories. This goal was not only well achieved but also vastly exceeded after the two-day extensive and intensive workshop.
The workshop was compact in design and rich in content. There were activities for participants to talk deeply with each other; carefully-chosen municipal issues to discuss, and role play scenarios to experience door-to-door campaigning. There was also hands-on advice on how to run a campaign step by step. What’s more, we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with three female city councillors discussing some challenges specifically facing women, such as how to balance between career and family and how to express oneself in a male-dominated political arena.
I learned so much from the workshop, but what was more rewarding was getting to know so many outstanding women participants. We have an entrepreneur who owns a consulting business and runs a NGO website as a single mother/grandmother; a strong woman who had suffered so much hardship in the past but strived hard to shape a better future, never thinking of giving up; and a 20 year-old young college student who has already been active in NGOs for years and has designed a detailed 10-year working plan toward her dream.
I always know that people, especially women are all incredible individuals, and as the Ancient Chinese Saint Confucius once said, “Three people walking together, there must be a teacher of mine among them”. That is why I’m always keen to talk to people. But this two-day interaction let me feel more convinced that everyone is each other’s teacher and what I learned from them will be beneficial for a lifetime.
Frankly speaking, I was not really in to politics. I’ve always been fascinated by culture and the humanities, which seemed warm and robust, and on the contrary, politics seemed cold and pretentious. But the talk with the three female councillors changed my view completely. Sitting in front of us were ordinary women just like us – mothers, wives – who never thought about entering politics. It was a love for community and a passion to improve the status quo that brought them to the seat of city council, where they are able to transfer that love and passion to real policies helping ordinary people like me.
So I ask myself, and I’m sure many are thinking the same question, if they can achieve this, why can’t I? Maybe not entering politics at this moment, but there are so many things that I can do right now using my skills. I’ll certainly continue to do what I’ve always liked – networking, communicating with people, and participating in all kinds of grass root activities. And besides that, I’ll try to contribute by volunteering, with the first step as volunteering for Women & Politics, for immigrant employment, an issue facing most newcomers like me, or just writing this blog post.
Small steps matter too. Small steps, when gathered together, pave a long way.
Yihan Li came to London from China in July 2016 with her husband. Before that, she also lived in Japan for seven years. She worked as an online sales & marketing manager in the tourism Industry for six years. Her interest areas include digital marketing, E-commerce, travel, and yoga. It is also one of her greatest passions to embrace new cultures and interact with people of different backgrounds.
In 2006, the U.S. city of Minneapolis, MN., voted to move away from traditional voting to use Ranked Choice Voting in municipal elections. The city has held two elections using ranked choice.
Coun. Linea Palmisano is now running as an incumbent, four years after being elected through a ranked ballot vote. She spoke with Women and Politics about the impact ranked ballots had on her decision to enter politics.
W&P: You have said you wouldn’t have run for council in a traditional first-past-the-post voting system.
LP: Yes. I believe that to be true. I grew up in the Chicago area and saw how people get ripped down in politics. It can be kind of a nasty environment. I had a full-time job and a one-and-a-half year old at the time. I wasn’t ready to get into a ring and fight, but I wanted to do good. . . the more respectable, more civilized world of ranked choice lends itself to more people getting involved.
W&P: What makes it more respectable, more civilized?
LP: In a more traditional campaign landscape, (campaign managers) quickly define who you are, get the people who they know will vote for you. . . .and then you attack (your opponent), push them into a corner.
The whole premise of ranked choice is that by nature, by strategy you’d have to be more friendly, because you are asking people to consider you as their second choice. You are speaking to to a wider audience . . . You are getting their feedback, you are learning what they want, you aren’t trying to talk about such a polarizing campaign.
W&P: Some say ranked choice voting would lead to more women candidates and more women being engaged. What do you think?
LP: Definitely. I think it allows us to be thoughtful, to be who we are, to engage more people.The other woman who got into my race would do events at the park explaining ranked choice voting with favourite flavours of ice cream. You get to cast a wider net that way. It’s a way to increase participation, which is attractive to women who have informal networks, being on the block, their work networks, other moms at school, at the park. For some reason running around to different events is still mostly a women’s domain.
W&P: What is your political background?
LP: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a politician, but I want to do good and I feel like public service is a way I can do good in the world and govern well. The kind of environment ranked choice voting allows for enables you to do that, to be yourself. There’s a lot more space to be in the grey area.
W&P: What were your platforms in 2013?
LP: The big buckets were about building a more prosperous, sustainable and connected city. By prosperous I do mean equity. Making everybody successful. Sustainable . . . I’m a bit of an environmental nerd. I could differentiate myself from my opponent with that. Connected was about mass transit
W&P: So ranked choice is the way to go?
LP: An advantage of ranked choice is you get to define the conversation more. Define the issues, the talking points…You get to have more of a conversation.
Jennifer O’Brien is a journalist in London, Ontario.
Ranked Ballot Public Participation Meeting
Saturday, April 22
As London prepares for a public discussion on whether to become Canada’s first city to move to “ranked ballots” — a voting method that would change the way we elect local government — it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of an overhaul.
For Women and Politics, that includes looking at if and how ranked ballots can lead to more women on city council.
Are women underrepresented at the municipal level in London?
Only four of London’s 14 city councillors are women. So, yes. Yes, we are.
Can a new way of voting – one in which voters rank their choice of candidates – change that? Supporters say yes.
Not only is ranked ballot voting more democratic than first-past-the-post elections – through which you can win with only 30% of the vote (meaning 70% of voters didn’t choose you) if that’s more than each of the other candidates got – advocates say it encourages women women to enter municipal politics, and leads to gender equity, multiculturalism and diversity on city council.
“It’s not like women aren’t getting elected under a first-past-the-post system, but the number of women elected is desperately under-representative of the population,” explains Katherine Skene of Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto. “Just electing a women to the position of mayor doesn’t say we’ve solved our gender problem. A council with a few racialized candidates, it’s not good enough. We aren’t getting there fast enough. If we know the system is a barrier, we need to change the system.
“Ranked choice is a way to a better more representative government that is more diverse, that is gender balanced.”
How ranked ballots work:
On voting day, citizens are asked to rank their choices for mayoral and ward candidates. Instead of putting an X beside one name, you’d put a 1, 2 or 3. It’s kind of how we make other decisions, such as what type of ice cream we want. (Gold Medal Ribbon, obviously, but if they don’t have it — and why doesn’t anybody carry that? It’s delicious! — chocolate will do the trick.)
**It’s important to note, voters don’t have to rank candidates. You can still vote the traditional way – choose your top candidate and leave the rest empty.
Once polls close, if a candidate receives at least 50% of the votes, he or she wins that race. If nobody gets half, the person with the least votes is dropped and “second choice” votes from that candidate’s ballots are redistributed. The cycle continues until someone ends up with half the votes and wins.
Why are we talking about change now?
The province made changes to the Municipal Elections Act, giving municipalities the option of using ranked ballots. So far, no cities have taken the province up on its offer and cities have until May 1, 2017 to decide. Other cities have turned it down, saying it’s too costly. In London, staff has recommended against ranked ballots for the next election due to uncertainties about whether the city will have a working system in place by then.
Why ranked ballots could encourage more women and diverse candidates, including people of colour and people with different abilities, gender identities, ages and more
What happens in political races is this: People who want an incumbent out throw their support behind the candidate they want who is most likely to beat that incumbent. Candidates are already being groomed for London’s 2018 election. And often, a candidate that is seen as strong enough to get capture a good portion of the vote, but not a guaranteed winner is asked to step out of the race in effort to ensure the preferred candidate gets the maximum amount of votes.
“The candidates that tend to get asked not to run are often women and people of colour,” said Skene. “They are seen as candidates that can’t win, but can siphon of enough of the vote so the other (unwanted) candidate could win.”
“Non-establishment people tend to be women, people of colour, new Canadians, people from an economically disadvantaged background. They will say two years before, “I can’t run, because so-and-so is running and I don’t want to split the vote.’
“With ranked ballots, suddenly you have a race where you can’t split the vote.”
Critics, including Fair Vote Canada, say there’s no statistical evidence to back up the theory ranked ballots lead to greater diversity among candidates.
But ranked ballot supporters say the lack of evidence is linked to the lack of cities using ranked ballots. While provincial and federal parties use the method to elect leaders, and a few U.S. cities have gone that way, no Canadian cities use ranked choice.
So, they defer to common sense:
“Say you’ve got an unpopular city councillor and a whole bunch of people who want to defeat that councillor. The councillor still has a good chance of winning because the others will split the vote,” explains Dave Meslin, also of RaBIT.
“And the incumbent is often a white man, because white men still hold positions of power.”
Ranked ballots discourage mudslinging and negative campaigning, say supporters.
With ranked votes, candidates do better when they run positive campaigns, get fresh ideas out there and reach out to community members, including their opponents, so people see them as a viable second choice, according to Jeanne Massey of Fair Vote Minnesota.
“It favours candidates who are more consensus building and collaborative in nature, and . . . In general, women are more more apt to run that way. They’ll win more often,” says Massey.
But . . .
Critics say the method is complicated and confusing to voters and can lead to spoiled ballots.
They say the confusion will lower voter turnout.
However, in recent months, city staff have held demonstrations with members of the public, using fruit as election candidates and asking people to rank their fruit of choice.
City Clerk Cathy Saunders tells Women and Politics the sessions were effective in simplifying the concept of ranked ballots for voters: “What we did at each session was manually did a count. We had people coming to sit down and do a count so they could clearly understand how it works. It’s complicated to explain, but once you do the count, it’s easy.”
The city has also produced a video – sadly using stick people instead of fruit – posted to the city website along with information about ranked voting at www.london.ca. You can add your voice to a public survey on the site too.
The city is holding a public participation meeting on ranked ballots, April 22, 11 a.m. at City Hall. Women & Politics hopes to see you there.
Jennifer O’Brien is a journalist in London, Ontario.
Remarks originally delivered at the London’s Women’s March on January 22, 2017 by Suze Morrison.
I want to talk to you today about why we need more women in politics.
The United Nations has a bench mark. It’s a threshold of women in power that is needed for our issues, our needs, to be properly addressed in policy and decision making. This minimum representation is 30 per cent. In Canada, on average, whether you are looking at municipal, provincial, or federal levels of government, women only make up 25 per cent of our elected officials. In Canada, we are not meeting a minimum requirement in our government to ensure women’s issues are adequately represented.
When policy and decisions are made without us, they can not be informed by the realities of womanhood. By the realities and the lived experiences of my sisters who are not just women, but Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, Queer Women, Trans Women, and two-spirted. Our voices – your voices – are needed. They are required.
If we have learned anything from our southern neighbours, it is that we can not rest. We can not pause. We can not say that 25 percent is enough. Because if we don’t keep fighting to gain equitable ground, the very ground underneath us will slip away and we will find ourselves moving backwards.
Backwards towards policy that excludes us, that seeks to take away our rights, and that minimizes the intersectional struggle of so many of our sisters.
My first ask of you today – is to run.
And, while I hope this call to arms is one that the young girls in this crowd will hear, I also know we can not wait for the next generation to stand up and stand in their power. Our work starts now, and I want every woman in this crowd to know that your voice is needed. That you can and should run. That you have the qualifications. That your lived experience makes you a better, stronger, leader. And that we need you.
I want every woman here, to silence any voices you hear that give you any seed of doubt. Know that you are powerful, and that you have every tool you need within you. And, that your sisters – your community – will stand with you when the time comes for you to put your name forward and say “It’s my turn.”
My second ask of you all today – is to ask her.
We know, that a woman needs to be asked three times more than a man before she will put her name forward for a nomination. Think of all the brilliant, passionate, loving women in your lives, and think about how much better our city, our province or our country would be with her in a position of power and influence.
Ask her. Ask her often. Ask her sincerely. Ask her from your hearts. Remind her constantly that even though the world eats away at her confidence in little slices and micro aggressions, that even though the world will try to grab her by the pussy, and even though the she will be constantly reminded of her ‘place’, that she is enough, that she can be successful, and she has a place – and it’s at the top.
My third and final ask of you today – is to vote.
Vote for her. Volunteer on her campaign. Help amplify her voice so she can in turn, amplify yours.
And I’m not here asking you to vote for a woman just because she is a woman. But because she can represent you in ways that men like President Cheeto to the south can not. Even men with the best of intentions, who are our best allies do not know what it’s like to walk in our shoes, and live in our lives. To live in a world where 1 in 3 of our sisters will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. To struggle to access healthcare. To survive in a time where our bodies are considered public property. To live with the heartbreak that 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women is not a priority of our government, because our government is not made up of women.
Today, I know many of us are in mourning. Many of us are triggered and hurting beyond words. And while I know we need space and time to honour that, I also know that as I look out at the crowd of women here today, and at marches of women across the globe, that we are powerful beyond measure.
Never, in my lifetime have I seen women unite on this scale. Carry this energy beyond today. Run. Ask her to run. And when the time comes, support her in every way you can.
We would like to thank everyone who participated at our post-election held in November. The purpose of the event was to have an opportunity to share how women experienced the election, the days after the election, and to unpack what it means to have Donald Trump win the US election. The women that night were vulnerable and honest. They expressed valuable insights and then rallied together to find ways to move forward. As promised, here is a summary of the ideas that were shared. These ideas are of the community, not of Women & Politics; therefore, if you are interested in leading or contributing to an action/initiative, please feel free to comment below and state which one you are interested in.
Working with school boards ~ ensuring that there are guidelines for teachers to follow so that students do not feel like their environment has changed as a result of the election.
Safety pin campaign ~ Promoting the use of safety pins in solidarity of marginalized people who may be affected by the election.
Education on White Privilege/ Anti-Oppression Training ~ provide educational opportunities (e.g. workshops) for people to understand how racism affects everyone.
Op-Ed Writing ~ Workshops for women to learn how to write op-eds and create intentional strategy to have more women write op-eds in the local paper.
Consent ~ Teach kids about consent and the effects of rape culture
Campaign against Carding ~ (largely implemented) encourage community leaders to stand against carding, create online petition against carding, put pressure on police services board and Chief Pare to stop carding.
Since the inception of Women & Politics, we have advocated that local government policies need to be more inclusive of all women and genders. Whether it be the London Plan, the Municipal Budget, or any policy/service that the City provides, the voices and experiences of all women need to be included in a more meaningful and concrete way. In addition, this work needs to go beyond gender to centre racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women who are noticeably absent from many decision-making processes and leadership roles. While white women make gains (albeit incrementally) in many of these areas, women from diverse communities are left even further behind.
So, we are excited to share that London has been chosen as one of the communities for the Diverse Voices for Change Project through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. This initiative is to increase the number of women from diverse communities who are actively informed by, and engaged in, local government decision-making. Five municipalities, including London, Sioux Lookout, Montreal, Halifax and Edmonton will engage racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women in local decision-making processes and leadership roles.
The City of London, along with Women and Politics as a community partner, will work with women from diverse communities to implement strategies, recommendations, policies and procedures within the city that better represent women from racialized, Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds.
We are excited that the City of London has made the commitment to this project and is taking steps forward in becoming more inclusive and representative of all Londoners. This is just one step of many that needs to be taken, and we will continue to push our local government to be more responsive to gender and diversity needs in our City on all fronts. Stay tuned for more updates as this project moves forward and get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more or being involved in any of the work we do.