Since the last municipal election in 2006, the percentage of females in Toronto’s municipal government has dropped. New programs aspire to inspire more young women to get into government.
The TRCC matches young women between the ages of 19 to 26 with the 10 female city councillors.
These young women have a background of community involvement and an interest in politics and their eight-month program focuses on job shadowing, mentoring and education. York University student Jessica Hewlett, 23, majors in political science and participated in the TRCC last year.
“It’s very difficult when you’re in a class with mostly male peers and talking about a subject dominated by males,” Hewlett said. “It’s hard to connect.”
Councillor Sandra Bussin, Ward 32 (Beaches-East York) mentored Hewlett, who said she learned skills ranging from public speaking and effective communication to time management.
“I can see myself being a city councillor,” Hewlett said. “I think municipal politics is most interesting because it affects people in their daily lives.
The program aims to open more doors for young women. After the 2003 election, Toronto saw 14 female councillors at city hall. The number dropped to 10 after the 2006 election.
Shelley Carroll, councillor for Ward 33 (Don Valley East) was first elected in 2003. She also mentors one of this year’s champions, and participated in the program last year as well.
“There are a lot of things that make the dynamic in the room challenging (at city hall),” Carroll said. “As women… we have that common bond, even if we’re really far apart on the political spectrum… To make sure you’re getting something fair and equitable for your citizens, you work together, no matter what.”
The 2010 race sees Jane Pitfield returning to run in Ward 29, (Toronto-Danforth) after posting a losing run for the mayor’s chair in 2006.
Newcomer Jennifer Wood also has declared her candidacy in Ward 29.
“It helps to have mentors,” Wood said. “I think that it’s important for woman to support each other… even though we are in the minority, women that are in politics now have a bit of an obligation to encourage women that are considering taking that step.”
Currently, only one female is running for mayor in the 2010 election. While she has no official political experience on her resume, Sarah Thomson believes that changes need to be made in this city and vows to bring a fresh perspective and new voice to local politics.
She feels that women are intimidated by politics and need to be more involved in the process. Simply meeting male politicians could get women thinking: “Oh, I can do what that guy is doing,” Thomson said.