Greater Sudbury aims to bring more women into the political ring
The city of Greater Sudbury is trying attract more women to the political ring — and councillors are expected to back a new initiative to encourage female leadership.
Nine per cent of candidates who ran for a seat on Sudbury city council in the last election were female.
"Women will tend to set aside their political aspirations until their children are older."
Janet Gasparini didn't wait for her kids to grow up when she ran for council more than a decade ago — but said she couldn't have done it without her husband's help.
"Really he became the primary parent," she said.
"There were many days when I was away from home for 14 hours in a row."
Rachelle Niemela, who is involved in a number of community roles, including the Sudbury Cyclists Union, said she's thought about running for office. But she said she's not willing to give up the work she's currently doing.
"I like the idea that I can focus on the things that I feel are really important to me as a resident and a citizen."
Male vs. female?
Gasparini said it's not always easy being in the public eye — and sexism is sometimes a problem.
"I would notice men never told each other that they talked too much. If you went back and listened to the tapes, the men were certainly talking as much as I was talking."
"Women in politics have to be prepared for some still gender stigma because it does still happen and some cultural attitudes about gender roles," she said.
"Sometimes what you think is the old boys club is actually very supportive of women running," she said.
Reynolds noted that women "bring something different" to the council table.
"We reflect the needs of all of our citizens, including children and seniors, the poor, the underrepresented," she said.
"And I think that brings a little bit different perspective to council decisions."
'Significant changes' needed
The city is trying to bring more women into politics by planning networking events. They will happen this fall if council gives the green light at a meeting on Tuesday.
Gasparini said one thing she would like to see the city do is put term limits on councillors to have more turnover.
But to make politics more attractive to newcomers, "I think that there have to be some significant changes in how politicians act, how we treat politicians, how we engage each other in community, how we treat each other," she said.
"So it's a big picture and I don't know if just a campaign to get more women in politics is going to fix any of those things that I think we're struggling with in our system."
Get youth involved
McIntosh noted that having younger people run for office is just as important as having women in politics
Long-time Ward 12 councillor Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said it's important to remember that all goals in politics are gender neutral, and that "if you want to do something, if there is a situation that you feel is not being addressed, then deal with it. Do something about it. Just don't talk about it. Do it."