To end this section, here are some quick pointers on how you can raise your profile in a way that will give you the visibility and credibility needed to contest a nomination or run as a candidate.
Get involved in your community.
Choose a group or organization that aligns with your beliefs. Go after the leadership positions such as chair or spokesperson. Never shy away from the finance jobs since they are roles of power and influence.
Run for something in your community.
Politics happens everywhere there are elections e.g. school councils, health boards, ratepayers associations. Even if the process lacks an official election, get yourself nominated for a position.
Get involved with local media.
Write letters to the editor. If you have a particular area of expertise that the local TV station might welcome in community programming, offer it.
Join a political party.
Volunteer to be on the finance committee or other influential role.
Work on an election campaign.
Volunteer to be the campaign manager. This role not only hones your leadership skills, it exposes you to the legislative process and to how government policies are made.
Get active in your riding association.
The longer you are involved in the riding association, the more you learn about the nominations process, the more you get to test your leadership skills and the more visibility you have with members.
Participate in municipal advisory committees or consultation processes.
These activities will deepen your understanding of issues, of local decision-making processes and of the various community positions on issues.
Volunteer for a taskforce.
Taskforces exist for local, provincial and federal issues. For example, you might be interested in health policy, which is under provincial jurisdiction. If you participated in the local taskforce trying to recruit more doctors to the community, you would gain insight into health human resource planning.
Work with a mentor
Female politicians are known for their capacity to support one another in a non-partisan way. Look around you. Very likely there will be an experienced female politician nearby willing to mentor you through these critical beginning stages.
And, of course, the world of organized labour mirrors in many ways the world of politics and provides good schooling for those women who want to test the waters and develop some of that 'thick skin' needed to succeed in politics. On this, the last word goes to Peggy Nash, former NDP candidate for the federal riding of Parkdale High-Park in Toronto, Equal Voice Steering Committee member, and Assistant to Buzz Hargrove, the President of the Canadian Autoworkers Union.
In a 1998 speech to women participating in a one-week course on leadership entitled “Women in Bargaining Conference”, Peggy pulls no punches in her description of what goes on at the bargaining table, and the rewards of being there:
“Collective bargaining is without question a non-traditional activity for women. It is confrontational, theatrical and unpredictable. It can involve posturing, exaggerating and even threatening. It is long hours at work in uninviting hotel rooms. It means interminable stretches of boredom interspersed with short periods of intense focused activity. It is decision-making at its toughest. It involves ego and bravado. It can definitely be macho.
“Collective bargaining is also the most important activity of the union on behalf of our members… It’s about changing the world. It is wonderful… So not surprisingly, a lot of men tell us, ‘you don’t want to get involved in collective bargaining.’ ‘It’s boring, and not much happens.’
Some women don’t run for the bargaining committee because they don’t feel qualified. But most men don’t know about bargaining when they first get elected… We can learn and develop skills as we grow into the job. Just like the guys do.”