Today is a significant day for women in Manitoba municipal politics. On November 26, 1936 Rhoda E. Tennant was elected as the first female alderman for the City of Brandon. (Winnipeg elected Jessie Kirk on December 6, 1921.)
Nearly a century later, though, women in Manitoba municipal politics is still the exception. If you look at Brandon’s present-day council just two of the eleven seats are held by women, (there are as many men named “Jeff” on it.) In Winnipeg, women make up just three of fifteen seats and in Manitoba’s other municipalities the per-centage is not any better.
Back in 2010 I blogged about this issue in advance of Manitoba’s municipal elections. At that time the Federation of Canadian Municipalities released data showing that across the country only 14% of mayors and 23% of municipal councillors were women.
Why do women stay out of municipal politics ?
I posed that question to Judy Wasylycia-Leis on the October 24 edition of Winnipeg Internet Pundits. She feels that the more brutish, personal style of politics at the municipal level was a factor. Another was the lack of political parties that can nurture or mandate change in their candidate selection process. As a result, politically and community-minded women tend to opt for school board or community associations to make their mark but she feels that we “must find a way” to get more women into municipal politics.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been working on the issue for almost a decade. In 2004 they released a decision making toolkit for women interested in local politics and in 2006 launched their Getting to 30% by 2026 campaign.
Since 2010 the Association of Manitoba Municipalities has been working on the issue as well. They will be hosting a panel discussion about women in municipal politics on Thursday, November 29, 2012 from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm at Convocation Hall, U of W where you’ll be able to hear from some of that rare species – the female Manitoba municipal councillor.