Prior to starting her journey in politics, Janis Irwin was a teacher and vice principal in rural Alberta. Upon moving back to Edmonton in 2010, she noticed a lot of federal issues that she felt weren’t being addressed.
In particular, Irwin noticed a lack of women’s representation and believed that women bring an important lens to politics. When women aren’t represented, their issues aren’t necessarily effectively raised. Today, women’s representation is still low. One of the ways this can be addressed is to encourage women to run for politics. This includes asking women to run, but also letting them know that they will be supported, not just through encouragement, but by actually helping with tangible things like door knocking and fundraising.
When she decided to run in the 2015 federal election, Irwin recalls that she didn’t necessarily have a huge team behind her at the beginning–but that was okay, because she was able to build one. One piece of advice she received at the time was, you don’t necessarily need to have a large team to start out. All you need is a dream and a good friend, or at least some key people, and that is enough to get started. Don’t be fearful if you don’t have a large team because you can build that.
Although there has been a lot of intentional work done at all levels of government to ensure that women are being represented, Irwin believes, and research supports, that if we are going to get more women into politics, parties in particular need to have policies in place to ensure that happens. We also need to be encouraging a large diversity of women of run, not just white women, but women of colour, indigenous women, and queer individuals.
The spring election is looking promising so far in terms of women representation, but a lot are still nomination contestants and there is no guarantee that they will win their nominations.
Amanda McIvor is a second-year scholar with the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and has been working with ParityYEG for her summer stretch experience