The Association of Manitoba Municipalities broke new ground this week.
AMM held its first “Lunch & Learn” session at Brandon University, approximately 30 participants heard about the AMM’s work in trying to attract more women into municipal government.
The Mayor of Brandon Shari Decter Hirst was the keynote speaker. “It is not a glass ceiling that keeps women from entering politics – it is a sticky floor,” she said. “We should have more women in politics because we are leaders. But politics is not set out for leaders. Politics, frankly, is set out for people who like to scrap in corners. That is a huge issue for women.”
Decter Hirst spoke candidly about her own experiences in running a campaign and serving as head of council for a city of 50,000, which has been particularly challenging during the recent budget process. “There are people in Brandon who are incredibly committed to making sure I fail,” she said. “That’s part of the reality. But you know what? The joys of doing this job outweigh all that.”
The participants ranged from elected officials, business owners, non-profits, citizens and university representatives. It was the first time the AMM has reached outside its membership – the 1,400 municipal elected officials in Manitoba – and also its first time hosting an event in a university setting.
According to AMM President Doug Dobrowolski, that is because there is a need not only for more women in politics. “There is also a need for more youth on our councils, more visible minorities, more people with disabilities…many groups are under-represented, not only in municipal government, but in all levels of our political system.”
“We hope forums like this will encourage more good people to come forward and become involved, because it really is a very rewarding experience.”
The event was the first in a series of sessions the AMM plans to hold between now and the next municipal election in 2014.
Manitoba has women on just 14% of the councils, the national average is 23%. AMM hopes the lunch and learn sessions will engage more women and get them involved in the election process.