By Lidia Abraha
Ryerson is launching a new program to encourage women to work in Parliament. The pilot program, Ryerson’s Women in the House, will give female-identifying students the opportunity to shadow an MP in Ottawa for a day, tour political sites and network with politicians.
Peggy Nash, the coordinator of the program and a former MP, has worked towards empowering female politicians for years. She co-founded Equal Voice in 2001, an organization dedicated to increasing female representation in all levels of government.
According to Women in the House, women represent 27 per cent of the seats in Parliament. This makes Canada 60th in the world for their percentage of female representation in federal government.
“The women who hold these positions [in Parliament] are not a different species, they’re not some kind of superwomen. They’re regular women who are from all walks of life, from all different career backgrounds, from all different personalities,” said Nash.
Nash added that she is interested in making women feel confident and comfortable enough to run for political office.
“I wanted to offer women who have an interest in politics the opportunity to meet with people who [ran for office] and were successful. [And] show other women that these are real people who have faced challenges, and found the confidence and the strength to put themselves out there publicly.”
Tracey Raney, a professor in politics and public admin at Ryerson, is also coordinating the program. Years of running an in-class political cabinet simulation seeded the idea for starting this program. In this simulation, students volunteered as different ministers—defence minister, health minister, etc., but Raney noticed that a female student would never volunteer as Prime Minister.
When she decided to point this out to the class, she began to see women volunteer for the role. According to Raney, this mimics real-life situations where women lack an interest in politics until they are encouraged to participate in political discourse.
“I wanted to think of a way to engage students who identify as female at Ryerson, where it’s not just me talking in front of a classroom about different theories and ideas, but to actually bring them into the political world,” said Raney.
The program is also open to all marginalized women-identifying participants. You must be an upper-year undergraduate or master’s student enrolled in the Faculty of the Arts to apply. No previous political experience is required, and the deadline is on October 5, 2018.