Post by Etana Cain & Jennifer Mowbray from Equal Voice National Capital Region Chapter
Make your mark – that’s the slogan featured on the City of Ottawa’s website for the upcoming municipal elections. Equal Voice National Capital Region (NCR), the local chapter of Canada’s only multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women, is calling on Ottawa women to heed this call and put their name forward on the ballot this fall as candidates.
Criss-crossing the city are numerous landmarks named after female leaders who have made their mark in the political realm – Marion Dewar Plaza adjacent to Ottawa City Hall; Claudette Cain Park in Gloucester; the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women and Gender Studies at Carleton University; the Famous Five monument on Parliament Hill – to name a few.
The October 2014 municipal election is an opportunity for women in our city to follow in the footsteps of these leaders and make their mark as a candidate for Mayor, Councillor, or School Board Trustee. The deadline to register as a candidate is coming up on Friday, September 12, 2014, at 2 p.m.
At Equal Voice NCR, we believe that electing more women is a fundamental question of fairness. It is critical that women across the political spectrum bring their voices to the decision-making tables of Canada’s democratic institutions. That’s why we have been closely tracking the numbers of women putting their names on the ballot.
One third – that’s the mark set by experts as constituting the critical mass needed to ensure that women’s perspectives are sufficiently heard and acted upon in decision-making bodies – and 30 percent is the minimum percentage we want to see our city meet. With time, fifty percent women and men should be seen as the norm, not the rare exception.
At the time of writing, there is a strong contingent of women in the race for school board trustee in all four boards. However, we are dismayed at the low numbers of women running at the Councillor and Mayoral levels.
By the numbers:
- Just 20% of the candidates currently declared as running for Councillor are women
- In 14 wards, no women have declared at all
- All five candidates running in the Mayoralty race are male
Research shows that when women put their names forward on the ballot they enjoy the same success rate as men – and sometimes enjoy a slight advantage. Women are generally regarded as sincere about their public service goals and are perceived as serious candidates. The public knows it’s harder for women to put their names forward, so when they do, they tend to be well regarded for participating in the process.
Equal Voice NCR has focused on equipping women who want to run for office – and their campaign teams – with the tools they need to succeed through a series of workshops this past year called ‘Skills to Go’. The first workshop focused on campaign skills and featured speakers who shared their expertise on how to run a successful campaign. The second focused on speech-writing skills. We plan to host one more workshop in the fall.
We can all play a role when it comes to increasing the democratic representation of women in our governments. Equal Voice’s campaign slogan sums it up perfectly – Be Her. Support Her. Celebrate Her.
If you’re a woman, consider running.
If you are a man or woman, encourage a woman to run.
Take an active role in supporting female candidates with your time and/or money.
Equal Voice NCR applauds all of the women who have put their names forward so far in this election. And to all of the smart, savvy, Ottawa women reading this post, we ask – how about you?