Niagara Region’s Seat at the Table project, in partnership with Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, Women in Niagara, City of St. Catharines, YWCA, Future Black Female, Services 4 Humanity, Muslim Senior Circle, Niagara Region’s Women’s Advisory Committee, ran from April 2022 to April 2023.
The project’s goal was to increase the number of women, particularly underrepresented women, elected for municipal government in Niagara by promoting understanding, awareness and confidence through education and support to those interested in running for election. Current and former elected officials and municipal employees provided keynote addresses and panel discussions in virtual and in person sessions.
The project was divided into two phases. Four virtual sessions pre-election provided information about the election process, potential challenges and advice for overcoming barriers that women face when running for municipal election. Two sessions post-election provided feedback on the election process and the experiences of women, and two sessions provided insight and advice on how to improve the context and environment for women once elected to ensure their full participation in office.
The project also included two short mentorship opportunities to increase support for underrepresented women intending to run for municipal government and newly elected women following the election.
A recent report revealed there were 223 participants in the project’s eight sessions. Seventeen of the women who ran in the October 2022 municipal elections participated in at least one of the four pre-election sessions and, with eight of those 17 elected to office, representing a success rate of approximately 47 per cent.
Overall, there was an increase in the number of women elected in Niagara from 2018, when 38 women were elected to 40 elected in 2022. The biggest increase was at Regional Council, with three additional women elected.
This project was funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada in partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“We need to continue to encourage the next generation of women leaders, especially those representing the Indigenous, Black, racialized, youth and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, by providing them with programs like Seat at the Table. Seat at the Table provided an opportunity for like-minded women – who have the ambition and courage to run for local or regional government – with a place to learn more about the path ahead. I’m proud to have been part of the project and will continue to make myself available to women and gender diverse residents who have an interest in pursuing a career as an elected official.”
~ Diana Huson, Regional Councillor, Town of Pelham (Seat at the Table Mentor and Co-organizer)
“It’s encouraging to see an increase in women elected officials because we know that women and gender diverse candidates face many challenges and barriers. We consider the Seat at the Table project a success based on the positive feedback we heard from the participants. The project provided women and gender diverse individuals interested in seeking election with a safe, informative environment that helped them build relationships and learn from women who have experience navigating the political system in Niagara.”
~ Michelle Sergi, Commissioner, Growth Strategy and Economic Development