Nation, I've never been a fan of "gender balance for its own sake" when it comes to the workplace. I don't believe that an employer should be forced to give a position to a less qualified candidate simply because the office hasn't met its "50/50" state of complete gender balance. For that reason, I've also not been a big fan of the never-ending caterwauling that accompanies every cabinet announcement in the history of EVER when the same old suspects rise up to decry the "institutional sexism" that exists in our governments - Prime Minister, Presidents and Premiers should be appointing the most qualified people to fill the challenging roles of cabinet positions, not appointing empty suits in an effort to keep their constituents satisfied that there are enough women, men, people of colour, people with mobility challenges, or people of Ukrainian descent in a cabinet at any given time in relation to the percentage of population.
ALL that said, though, I think it's a real problem that we have such a hard time attracting female leaders of our community into the political realm, to put their names on a ballot.
Now, there are literally HUNDREDS of ways in which women (or men, for that matter) can make a positive difference in our communities without ever appearing on a ballot - or without any of us even hearing their names. Volunteering with community organizations, taking a leadership role on the local Block Watch, even something as simple as writing a letter to a local official or signing a petition can make a real difference. But the most obvious and visible way to push for change in your community is to run for office - and of the announced mayoral candidates thus far, we have six men - Connelly, McIver, Hehr, Lord, Hughes, Kassam (don't worry if you missed Alnoor's first announcement, he'll do it again on May 13th, and then again and again until someone notices) - and no women.
As in, it looks like no women even want the job.
We NEED women in positions of authority and power, Nation. Not just because they make up half of the population - but because they bring a perspective that, for all of our good intentions, men simply CAN'T. That doesn't mean by any stretch that a female candidate is automatically better or worse than a male counterpart - it just means that she's DIFFERENT - and it's this lack of difference in our declared mayoral candidates thus far that has me worried.
Make no mistake about it - men can represent women in government, and women can represent men. This isn't about percentages, or ability. It's just about perspective. If we had 10 declared candidates for mayor and each and every one was a 50 year-old white woman with a lifetime's experience in oil and gas, I'd be just as concerned about the lack of difference in our choices, and in their personal perspectives.
Now, our mayoral candidates to this point are quite different from the example I just laid out... certainly, Paul Hughes and Ric McIver are, to say the least, quite different from one another. Kent Hehr is a born and raised Calgarian, while Alnoor Kassam brings the valuable perspective of someone who crossed an ocean and fled oppression to make a fresh start here. But we're STILL missing a valuable perspective in this race, and it's one I'm hoping that some of our female civic leaders hear the call to provide it.
Where's Diane Colley-Urquhart? She's been conspicuously absent while the men have been jockeying around to be perceived as the front-runner, but DJ Kelly of CalgaryPolitics.com and The Best Political Team in the Blogosphere (TM) has reported that 2 sources have DCU renting advertising space for a mayoral run. Here's hoping it's true.
Diane is NOT the only leader we have in this community without "Y" chromosomes, however. There are other bright lights out there who could take a run at this, from Donna Kennedy-Glans and Leah Lawrence to Cathie Williams.
Nation, I'm confident that as time goes on we're going to see a lot of women come forward to run for city council or school board trustee. These are critical positions with no less responsibility than the mayor (some would say MORE), and we certainly owe every candidate, man OR woman, our thanks for having the courage to stand and be counted. But when you look at the candidates for what is inarguably the highest-profile job in this city - seeing no female faces is, as the youth say, "weak sauce".
Diane? Donna? Leah? Cathie? Others?
Your city needs you.
This post is cross-posted at CalgaryPolitics.com