by June Hofland
I have served as a city councillor in the City of Guelph for 11 years and still find it a privilege and an honour to be doing this work.
Over the years many people have been curious as to why I chose to run for city council. My response “someone asked me to run” but it was my love for the community and my passion to effect change that brought me to the seat of city council.
While women comprise 50% of the population in Guelph and surrounding communities, women continue to be underrepresented in politics and in leadership positions at every level of business and government. There are more women entering male-dominated fields like medicine and business but women still tend to avoid the political arena.
In order to maintain a healthy and legitimate democracy our election offices must better reflect our population. This diverse representation creates a better environment for women and men.
I believe that women have something unique to offer. I also believe women are natural community builders and bring a different perspective. We need far more women including young women and women of all backgrounds to see themselves in positons of power and to see politics as part of their future. Women also have a greater sense of social issues and wellbeing. In my experience I have witnessed how women can change the tone during a debated issue. Women prefer to listen and seek common ground.
Recently the Canadian Federation of University Women (Guelph) worked with the University of Guelph’s Centre of Community Engaged Scholarship Institute to identify barriers to women’s under-representation in political offices.
Some of these potential barriers include juggling the traditional roles as primary caregiver for parents and children, access to funding, less credibility in male dominated environment and being scrutinized in the media. Having knowledge of these barriers and wanting to discover ways to overcome them the organizers of the Guelph-Wellington Campaign School decided to host an info session.
This info session is being offered for Guelph and surrounding communities to inspire, connect and support women willing to run for public office. This introductory evening is entitled Raising Women’s Voices: Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Participation in Politics. Our thinking was by hosting an open forum we could have a discussion about opportunities and the challenges of municipal politics. Mark your calendars.
You may be wondering why I was so passionate about taking on this huge task.
In many conversations over the past decade I have been asked dozens of times: “Why did you decide to run for council?” My story is not too different than many stories you will hear from female politicians.
My answer is simple: “Someone asked me to run” and the rest, as they say is history.