*Coffee kōrero happening on Thursday the 22nd for potential female candidates and / or supporters. Please get in touch with me directly for more information*
I don’t know about you, but there are times that I can’t even go to the toilet without someone needing something. I can be interrupted mid-shower because someone’s hungry. (The someone is a 7 year old daughter by the way). So is it any wonder pursuing goals outside the house is put aside until our children are old enough to at least babysit themselves? I’ve been thinking a lot about why we have so few local female political leaders. 25% in Hamilton City Council. 20% of our countries Mayors. I’ve talked to two of our city councillors about it it – and despite seeing all the reasons why we aren’t better represented, there is a way forward.
In the lead up to the 2016 local elections I was set on running as a Hamilton West Councillor. I was sure I could do it if I worked hard enough. I was sure I could offer a viewpoint I felt they needed in there, and I felt I had enough support form my husband to go through with the campaign. But, that didn’t stop me backing out days before filling in a nomination form. I just couldn’t do it. I made excuses like, I can’t afford to do this (it’s easier to boost name recognition when you have money), Public speaking is terrifying. I don’t want people looking at me all the time. I really really struggled to do an elevator pitch on why someone should vote for me. The person I had to be in campaign mode, when I’m naturally self deprecating and introverted is so far outside my comfort zone that it was causing anxiety. I felt that so many people like myself, were switched off to local politics, that I wouldn’t have the base of voters needed to get in. Why put myself through it? Why put my family through it?
(Add >> quick acknowledgement that politics can be hard on the families of male councillors too).
And, I was extremely disappointed at the outcome of the 2016 elections. The candidates I thought would be a community focused, progressive, environmentally focused and status-quo changing candidates weren’t elected. Instead we have a conservative – Council which lacks diversity on many fronts. Including females around the table. Did I regret not standing? No.
Is there any wonder women don’t run for council when we have less financial resources, can’t justify time away from the family and under-value our own skills and experience.
We’ve heard regular complaints about conduct in the chamber. Slurs, disrespect, lewd jokes and bad language. Not everyone wants to hear that all day. That’s not to mention the tight 5, group think, old boy’s club, exclusion and political jestering that we associate with being in the game.
However, earlier I mentioned that there is a way forward, and it starts now. Back in 2016 when I considered running as a candidate, I approached Angela O’Leary to talk about “the job”. What it entails, and why campaigning is like. She shared her background into the role and the support that exists for women in politics. She has mentioned a willingness to mentor others to the role. (She’s been a Hamilton city councillor for four terms so knows the job). Last month she reinforced the need for us to shoulder tap people we know, to consider standing in next years election. (Link to My most recent interview with Angela).
These messages were reinforced again yesterday when I spoke to Paula Southgate. She discussed her background to entering the governance roles she has had including 15 years at the Waikato Regional Council. I felt that her advice about women with young families, taking on school board roles and kindy committees to gain helpful experience was a practical step for those who might be interested in the future. Of course governance isn’t the only pathway. However she too mentioned being willing to mentor someone. We discussed the calibre of existing female leaders in our city, and the need for everyone to ‘shoulder tap’ someone we think would represent the city well. (Link to My most recent interview with Paula).
There will be conduct issues, though no doubt, they will decrease as more females enter the arena. There will be the need to turn a blind eye to criticism about needing to leave a meeting at 5pm. There will be no more midnight meetings. That’s not good for anyone.
So we have two experienced leaders interested in mentoring females into the role. We have the talent already out in our community It’s time to have those conversations with our friends, whanau and networks, and break down the barriers so that in 2019 we can vote in a more representative council.
Heads up to SAVE THE DATE for the evening of International Women’s Day 2019, for an evening dedicated to celebrating great leaders and supporting more.
**Note. This piece stands separate to many many other conversations that need to be had if we are genuinely wanting a representative democracy. It doesn’t include voting decisions, ethnic representation and doesn’t include the evidence showing the benefits of diversity in decision making. I’m not telling you to vote for women, because they are women. I’m not implying they make better decisions – I’m suggesting to empower everyone to feel valued in society they have to feel they can participate. Today’s conversation was based on barriers to women standing. Next time, will be a different focus. Feel free to contribute now. I think ultimately we want the same – and that is to influence the world around us positively – in all the flavours that that might entail.