In the 2013 municipal election, 490 women were elected to public office out of a possible 1,874 positions. When Sylvan Lake Councillor Megan Hanson heard the statistics, she was disappointed.
“I guess I just had higher hopes. Looking around our region there seems to be more women elected to local government,” said Coun. Hanson.
Central Alberta appears to have a stronger female representation on municipal government than some other areas, says Hanson, but she expected the overall representation to be higher.
A press release issued by the Alberta Government claims nearly one quarter of towns and cities in the province do not have female representation on their councils. The release continues to say women, who make up about half of the Alberta population, only hold about one quarter of elected municipal seats.
“Our city halls need your voices and perspectives,” said Minister of Status of Women, Stephanie McLean. According to McLean, women bring a different perspective than their male counterparts.
“We know when women run, they win as often as men – and they bring new ideas that benefit all Albertans,” McLean said.
While Hanson agrees more women should run for local elections, and that they bring a different view point as women “tend to think differently” then men, she said it shouldn’t be solely for the purpose of a 50/50 government.
Hanson would like to see people running for election to have different viewpoints and backgrounds. She said this would make for a more rounded council sitting around the table.
“We should be looking at diversity, not just equality for equality’s sake,” said Hanson.
It is Hanson’s opinion that a council should reflect the town or city it represents. What that means is having different people from different backgrounds working together. She would like to see seniors, young people, family members, different religions and cultures all represented on council.
“They each bring something different that another person may not have thought about. That will be a council that represents its community,” Hanson said.
Hanson admits Sylvan Lake appears to be moving in a more diverse direction, having younger and older councillors as well as a few different backgrounds sitting in the council chamber.
While she says diversity is what a council truly needs, she would also enjoy seeing more women in the council chamber, or at the very least, running for election.
She says just running for election is a step in the right direction, and hopes to see more women take that step.
“What I think we should be doing is having honest one-on-one conversations with women who are interested in running in the municipal election,” she said.
By having personal, one-on-one conversations, Hanson says a woman will be more likely to ask questions and really think about the possibility of running. Already, Hanson has had three such conversations with women who have shown interest in running for election in Sylvan Lake.
Anyone interested in running for the municipal election has until Sept. 18 to declare their candidacy. The municipal election will be held on Oct. 16.
“I hope to see lots of people running – both male and female – from all walks of life,” said Hanson.