Last week I had the privilege of participating in a session for women in politics that was coordinated on behalf of the Niagara Region as part of the Seat at the Table programming. The event was attended by women elected in every municipality across Niagara, including Regional Council. It was an honour to meet women across Niagara in politics who are passionate about their community and looking to action meaningful, positive change. Niagara has some great leadership in place for the next four years!
Being a newly elected representative can be a daunting responsibility if you don’t have previous experience, with a steep learning curve. The programming sought to create space for dialogue on what it means to be an elected official, resources to help clarify the role and responsibilities, but also a means to create connections with experienced Councillors for mentorship and advice. It can take a year to fully grasp Council responsibilities, but also the depth of municipal activities. The programming aimed to help bring new Councillors up to speed in terms of what to expect.
I participated as a panel moderator for the group addressing the overall experience and how to deal with criticism or online attacks. Public criticism and negative interactions are an unfortunate aspect of the job for anyone on social media, however it’s a valuable tool to stay connected to constituents and to relay timely information.
The Seat at the Table program is one I’ve been heavily involved with since last term. The program aimed to encourage the need for representation of diverse voices at the municipal level in order to better inform decisions and policy-making.  It encouraged women, racialized and gender diverse individuals to participate in local politics by either considering a run for office or to get involved in a municipal committee. While the programing prior to October focused on elections and campaigning, post-election it has included initiatives that address how to be successful in the role and where to find support and mentorship that can empower you to do well in the position.
The next Seat at the Table session will be held on April 12th. It has a focus on championing women leaders and features the previous Mayor of St. Catharines, Walter Sendzik, as the keynote speaker. It will address how to identify bias and barriers, but also how to help champion and advocate on behalf of women and gender diverse constituents. It’s open to the public and should provide an interesting forum to learn about diverse perspectives and needs. If you have an interest in this topic, how to develop anti-bias skills and leadership in this space, or just want to learn, please consider attending. It’s free and open to the public! More details can be found at:
In my career, I’ve participated in a number of Committees or initiatives that support DEI initiatives. I’ve always found that they’re attended by the same people ~ those who already see the value in making our communities more inclusive. The challenge is engaging with individuals who don’t see it’s value, or see it as a threat. Diversity, equity and inclusion is not about empowerment of one group at the expense of another. It’s about empowering everyone to have equal access and opportunity in a society for the sake of human progress.