News / Edmonton

Equal Voice Alberta wants half of 2017 candidates to be women

Women to women: It's time to run

Big turnout: Lana Cuthbertson stands by dozens of women who gathered Wednesday to push for gender equality in the next municipal election.

Tim Queregesser/Metro

Big turnout: Lana Cuthbertson stands by dozens of women who gathered Wednesday to push for gender equality in the next municipal election.

If the local chapter of Equal Voice has its way, half of the candidates pounding the pavement in the next municipal election will be women.

“Our main tactic is to ask more women to run. Research has shown that men don’t even need to be asked, they’ll step up and run; women need to be asked at least three times,” said Lana Cuthbertson, chair of the organization.

At a launch party Wednesday, Equal Voice Alberta North announced its new goal of having women make up 50 per cent of candidates in the mayoral, city council and school board races in the 2017 election.

Before the last election there were four female city councillors. But now there's one—Coun. Bev Esslinger.

For background: Edmonton’s only female mayor, Jan Reimer, left office in 1995. School boards tend to be more gender-balanced.

Cuthbertson points to the new gender-balanced federal cabinet and the high percentage of women in the new provincial government as evidence things are changing.

“I think Edmonton is really well placed to rise to the challenge,” she said. “It’s a young city. It’s starting to become a really progressive city.”

Former councillor Kim Krushell says it was coincidental that all the female incumbents chose not to run again last election, adding to a decline in the number of women on city council.

Still, she said women debating a run for office tend to have more concerns: They’re more reluctant to do things like ask for donations. They also worry more about the scrutiny that comes with public life.

“I do think that being the target of trolls is different for women. Not only are you targeted more, but they’ll comment on your appearance, they’ll try to break you down,” Krushell said. “I didn’t see those same emails going to my male colleagues.”

Her advice to women mulling a run? Find a good campaign manager, get your name out there and get comfortable raising money.

The most important part, regardless of gender, is to have a solid idea of why you’re running, and the change you want to make.

Krushell also said women aren’t just needed as candidates.

“I think we need to turn it around. Instead of asking why aren’t women running, turn it around and encourage them and help them run.”

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