Fewer women on the municipal ballot in major northeast cities

When people in northeastern Ontario go to the polls next month, they will likely see more men on the ballot than women.

Sudbury activist says women face barriers on the campaign trail, in office

There are more men running for municipal office in northeastern Ontario than women, but a Sudbury organization is working to establish gender parity in the region. (iStock)

When people in northeastern Ontario go to the polls next month, they will likely see more men on the ballot than women.

Between the four major cities in the region, only one woman is running for mayor.

There are also more men vying for council seats. In Sudbury, only six prospective councillors are women, while 37 are men.

Amanda Kingsley Malo isn't surprised by the lack of gender parity. She is the founder of PoliticsNOW, an organization that encourages women to enter politics.

Kingsley Malo said women tend not to run for office if they don't feel fully prepared, which is especially problematic when it comes to municipal politics.

"If you're running provincially or you're running federally, you have a party that is backing you up," she said.

"You have a party that is putting money into you. You have a party that is training you, training your volunteers. If you're running municipally, you don't have that kind of influence that's really helping you."

Amanda Kingsley Malo is the founder of PoliticsNow, an organization that offers "campaign schools" for women interested in running for office. (Angela Gemmill CBC)

'We just keep multiplying'

PoliticsNOW offers "campaign schools" that train women on the ins and outs of running for office.

Kingsley Malo said she had hoped more women would run in this municipal election if they felt prepared.

That hope seems to have paid off — many of the women who have participated in the campaign school are now either running or volunteering on a campaign.

"Currently we have 20 women on our roster that we have been helping all over the province," she said.

"If half of those women get elected, so say those are ten women, and if they have helped just one other woman on their campaign or inspired one other woman, all of a sudden we've got twenty. And we just keep multiplying."

Sexism, harassment still prevalent

Despite those signs of progress, women still face many barriers in politics.

Female candidates have valuable leadership skills that often go unrecognized in the political sphere, Kingsley Malo explained.

"They're running our hockey teams, they are volunteering on our school councils, they're presidents of the PTA," she said.

"They're running all of these major charity organizations and doing a lot of the silent work that makes our community function."

Sexism and harassment also continue to be a problem at all levels of government, Kingsley Malo said.

She points to Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavaness, who has spoken out about her experience with discrimination on social media and on Parliament Hill, as an example.

"It's not enough to just get women elected," Kingsley Malo said. "You need to treat women properly, once they are elected."