SFU Surrey associate professor Jennifer Marchbank

Campaign school in Surrey aims to woo women

Experts will coach participants in hopes of increasing the number of females in politics.

While women make up more than half of Canada’s population, they hold a much smaller fraction of the political positions both federally and provincially – only a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons and just over a third in the B.C. legislature are occupied by females.

In an effort to raise the ratios, dozens of women are headed to “campaign school” at SFU Surrey later this month.

The Canadian Women Voter Congress (CWVC) is holding its 14th-annual Women’s Campaign School Nov. 29-30. Seasoned female politicians and political campaigners will spend two days coaching the more than 50 registrants on the art and science of successful political campaigning.

“The United Nations says that a critical mass of at least 30 per cent of women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women’s concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business,” said Jennifer Marchbank, a campaign school co-sponsor and speaker. “A more collaborative political system will attract more women, and more diverse men, to the electoral process.”

As associate professor in SFU’s Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and in Explorations in Arts and Social Sciences, Marchbank is involved in outreach and advocacy work involving Surrey youth facing gender-bias.

She’s concerned that high-profile political scandals – such as the ongoing drug admissions and questionable behaviour of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and the recent ousting of members of Senate over improper expenses – could make politics less attractive to women.

“Scandal may discourage women from self-selecting to put themselves forward as a candidate as women’s political socialization has been show to discourage women from self-selecting,” said Marchbank.

Trina Isakson, CWVC chair and SFU Faculty of Environment instructor, will also be at the campaign school. She says while many believe more women in politics would raise the bar for politicians’ behaviour, increasing the number of females would also equalize the scrutiny.

“Female politicians may hold themselves to a higher standard than men do because they feel pressure to work harder and better to show their worth in electoral politics among men,” said Isakson. “But once there is true equality of opportunity in the electoral process, scandals will also be equal opportunity.”

Linda Reid, Adriane Carr, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay and Mobina Jaffer will help campaign school attendees acquire skills critical to political success.

Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, who also serves as B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, will deliver the school’s keynote address.

For more information, check http://womenvoters.ca/events/campaign-school/


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