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Taneen Rudyk: Clearing the barriers for women in local government

Research has shown that as of 2015, only 18 percent of Canadian mayors are women. It is a number Taneen Rudyk describes as “abysmal” when so many women are doing “incredible work” in their communities. Also problematic, only 28 percent of municipal councillors are female, which she reiterates is not representative of communities.

As such, Rudyk – a councillor for the Town of Vegreville, Alberta and vice-chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) standing committee on women in local government – is committed to helping create a more accepting environment for debate while also clearing a path for greater inclusion and diversity in the political sphere.

Rudyk sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2019 FCM conference in Quebec City. The two discussed the need to increase women’s participation in local government and working toward parity in municipal politics.

Overcoming Toxic Political Barriers

“The goal would be toward parity. I think the shift is quite significant,” Rudyk said. “The ultimate goal would be to have the voice of community represented. Which means those that live in communities need to also be heard. For that reason, it is even more important that women are a part of that process.”

Many women, Rudyk acknowledged, face toxic circumstances when entering politics. There is intimidation and bullying in the workplace regardless of gender, she said, but it is additionally challenging when there is a limited set of colleagues for women to commiserate with.

“I’ve had some very challenging situations. Some of which I found laughable; some of which have been a little bit more confronting. Being able to have a cohort of colleagues to be able to laugh at or provide some sort of support to counter that is important,” she said. “Even just something as simple as being able to decompress and talk about situations that aren’t as friendly or welcoming; it is important.”

Support, Mentoring Tools for Women’s Involvement

While there are many barriers for women looking to become involved in local government, there are also solutions. Part of it is providing the information and training for women who are interested.

Another part of the solution is asking people who are already severing as important community leaders to get involved on the political side.

“I was already doing this work as a volunteer and it wasn’t until somebody asked me – I’ve always had an interest in politics, but actually targeted me and asked me – that I considered it,” Rudyk said. “We need to be able to mentor each other and provide that type of leadership within our own municipal government.” MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the article: Breaking through the municipal glass ceiling. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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