The province is trying to give women a leg up in municipal politics. Local politicians speak to the reasons why they wanted to get involved. Pictured (l-r) are Ponoka County Coun. Nancy Hartford

The province is trying to give women a leg up in municipal politics. Local politicians speak to the reasons why they wanted to get involved. Pictured (l-r) are Ponoka County Coun. Nancy Hartford

Province looking for more women in politics

Ponoka area female politicians speak to why they wanted to get involved in municipal and school board politics.

The province hopes to give women a running start in the upcoming municipal elections.

Last week the Ministry of Status of Women announced its campaign, called Ready for Her, in an effort to increase the participation of women in politics.

The province points out that of the 1,874 possible municipal positions, 490 women were elected, about 26 per cent. There are a number of factors that the province feels women don’t run for office, which include being the main caregivers in a household, a political culture and sexism of an ‘old boys club,’ or campaign resources.

Other areas the province sees as a hindrance to women running is that there appears to be many candidates who have experience in business, legal or party backgrounds. “Candidates with different experience may feel they lack the skills to run,” states the campaign.

But the ministry suggests that women should run as they can add to the diversity of experience and opinions.

“Studies have shown how diversity improves an organization’s effectiveness. From a governance perspective, municipal councils are great ways of directly shaping a community, as municipalities are responsible for a wide range of services, policies and programs.”

Speaking to some of the female politicians within Ponoka, each one has different reasons for getting involved. Nancy Hartford is the only female on Ponoka County council and for her, being involved politically is something she has always been interested in.

Hartford was acclaimed last election in Division 5 but has experience with Rimbey FCSS. She’s a cattle farmer who likes to be involved. “I’ve always been interested in politics, at least at our level. It’s quite fascinating really.”

“I represent a lot of women out there,” she added.

For her the biggest lesson in being a councillor is how important it is to be governing, rather than being involved in the day-to-day operations of council. She pointed out that staff are there with the expertise and council is there to provide feedback.

Town of Ponoka Coun. Carla Prediger is all about using her experience in management to guide her decision-making. Her work at Alberta Health Services was an ideal background to get into governance, or policy making with the town. “It was kind of that next step to invoke change.”

A person interested, regardless of sex, should go into municipal politics to help drive change, says Prediger, but she advises experience in budgets and policy making is paramount to doing well.

“It’s not about gender in politics. It’s about people in politics,” said Prediger.

She took some issue with the campaign focussing on women. Gender has never played a factor in her decisions, adding that anyone who wants to get involved needs to do their research, otherwise they’re most likely to become heavily involved in a municipality’s operations. Councillors are voted in for governance.

For Lorrie Jess, Wolf Creek Public Schools chairperson, she too wanted to get involved having home schooled her kids for a few years. She feels the campaign is a positive way to get women to think about political involvement. “It seems to be something that’s a movement right now.”

When it comes to women in politics there appears to be a focus on a woman’s look, said Jess. “Women are often scrutinized on their appearance…and men aren’t so much.”

She suggests a woman’s policy-making, rather than her hairdo is what should be looked at.

Delving more deeply into the 2013 election results, there is a mix of where women were represented:

8 per cent in special areas

11 per cent in improvement districts

17 per cent in municipal districts

18 per cent in cities

20 per cent in summer villages

31 per cent in villages

32 per cent in specialized municipalities

32 per cent in towns

The ministry will be hosting some tours of its campaign with Edmonton being the first stop this past April 6. Future dates are yet to be set.