Mayoresses regroup to counterbalance the traditional “boys' club”
British Columbian mayors during of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention in September 2022.
In British Columbia, of the 162 mayors, 42 are women, almost four times less than the number of men holding this office. To dust off and reform the idea of a boys' club in politics, an elected official created a support group reserved for mayors.
Sarrah Storey is one of the women who managed to win a mayoralty in the last elections. She begins her second term in Fraser Lake, a village west of Prince George. However, his early days in politics were fraught with challenges. She was the only woman on the town council of Fraser Lake.
I remember being told, “You don't have a mustache. and you make waves", or even "You are a woman, you have children, how do you do with children?" […] These kind of comments were very frustrating for me.
Sarrah Storey says she wondered where she could find mentorship as a woman in politics. To help her colleagues and those starting out as mayoress, she launched a group on social networks to improve the place of women in municipal politics.
Sarrah Storey is the mayor of Fraser Lake and the founder of the support group for female mayors of British Columbia.
To improve things, this requires support. A circle for female mayors from across the province has sprung up on Facebook, where discussions, advice, training and mentorship abound to enable them to navigate political waters together.
We give our ideas, we talk about our successes. We support each other, explains Sarrah Storey.
Since the first exchanges of the group, almost four years ago, some have left politics, others have stayed, and new faces have appeared.
Among these new faces is that of Ruth Hoyte, from the village of Coldstream. If she was already involved in municipal politics, this is the first time as mayor. And for her, the initiative of Sarrah Storey is an advantage. I think mentoring, working together, and creating an opportunity for women to support each other is key.
If the number of female mayors has gone down between 2018 and 2022, however, Sarrah Storey hopes it's not because of their gender.
For Alice Maitland, BC's longest-serving mayor at 42 years, mindsets need to change: People still think we won't get the same quality of service from a woman than from a man.
She sees the creation of the group with a positive eye. Any support one can get is helpful and no matter what work one is doing, if one can find a support group, it makes life so much easier.
The founder of the group, for her part, wants there to be more parity within town halls and believes that it is necessary to inspire the younger generations. It's important to teach the next generation [how] to inspire others to make British Columbia a better place, where gender isn't the reason you elect a woman. nobody or not, concludes Sarrah Storey.