Whistler women avoiding campaign school 

Only two registrants from Whistler commit to attending political forum

With days to go before the Sea to Sky Campaign School, only two women from Whistler have committed to attending.

That's according to an e-mail that organizer Catherine Rockandel sent out to various community members on May 16, imploring them to encourage more Whistler women to sign up and attend.

"I am concerned that we only have two women from Whistler attending," she said in her e-mail.

"We are hoping you can help us to identify and encourage more women from Whistler to attend. The Campaign School is not just for women who are considering running in this fall's municipal election. The focus is on providing leadership skills from public speaking to building relationships for all women in the Sea to Sky Corridor."

Rockandel, the principal of Squamish-based firm Rockandel and Associates that provides facilitation services for public, private and First Nation clients, has organized the Sea to Sky Campaign School as a way to encourage more women to get involved in the political life of the Corridor.

The event will see female politicians gather for workshops and panel discussions in order to educate women and stir interest in running for bodies such as municipal councils, the Sea to Sky School District and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

The event is to take place May 28 at the Whistler Conference Centre. Registrants include 20 people from Squamish; five each from Pemberton and West Vancouver; three from the Sunshine Coast; two each from Whistler, Mount Currie and Victoria; and one from N'Quatqua, a First Nation community north of Pemberton.

"I don't know why there aren't more women from Whistler attending," Rockandel said in an interview. "We've promoted it extensively. There are a couple of women coming from Whistler, and we're promoting it as more than just about being elected. It's also about leadership because there's a two-hour workshop on public speaking."

Concerns have persisted in Whistler about female involvement in politics since at least the 2008 municipal election, when a single female candidate ran for mayor and only a single female ran as a councillor but dropped out soon after declaring her intentions.

Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, an injury lawyer and former municipal councillor, will be speaking as part of a panel discussion.

She is one of the two registrants from Whistler and she said that doesn't mean women in Whistler aren't interested in politics, pointing out that women are "over represented" on various boards of directors and service organizations such as the Whistler Arts Council and the Community Foundation of Whistler.

"Women are the majority of the boards or pretty close to it," Wilhelm-Morden said. "So I think certainly the idea of contributing to the community is there in this town for women."

Speaking specifically to political positions, such as on municipal councils or in the federal or provincial governments, she said women are "significantly" under-represented at all levels.

Reasons for this, according to her, are that women bear the bulk of child-raising duties and that it can be "extraordinarily time consuming" already to balance those duties with holding a job.

Other reasons include the scrutiny that one faces when serving in public office.

"I think in Whistler in particular, the last three councils have been, you know, there have been a number of controversies and that may put women off," Wilhelm-Morden said. "It's difficult to go to Nesters and stand in the lineup at the grocery store and hear people berate you for whatever it is you happened to have done while you were on council."

Tickets for the campaign school are $25 each and registration will take place starting at 8:30 a.m. The school itself goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a social networking event to follow at Araxi.

Call Catherine Rockandel at (604) 898-4614 if interested.




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