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Women in municipal government series aimed at diversity

Masha Scheele

A free three-part online lunch and learn series about women in governance is starting this September with the goal of working towards diverse representation at the municipal level.

The sessions will cover challenges women may experience and how to overcome them, real experiences of women in municipal positions, and how to build a campaign.

“It’s so important for everybody’s voice to be heard. This is one demographic that has been identified as being underrepresented,” explained Jenna Altrogge, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) assistant manager.

The series will take a broad look at why it is important to have different people around the table with diverse opinions, backgrounds, and lived experiences. 

“The focus is on women because it’s been a big gap that has been identified on that national level. In our region, only 33 per cent of municipal councilors are women and the statistics are pretty equally low across Canada,” said Altrogge.

With another municipal election just over one year away, this is a great opportunity for local women to learn more about campaigning and to set themselves up for success.

“The goal is just to encourage people who might not have otherwise considered running, giving them the tools and resources and ultimately working towards a diverse representation at the municipal level,” Altrogge said.

Nominations for the upcoming Hinton municipal election open on Jan. 1, which allows for some time to get organized. Once individuals have put in their nomination, they can start campaigning.

“This is kind of the ideal time for people to start thinking about building their 2021 campaign,” Altrogge said.

The first session will review the value of gender parity and will overview the role of women’s voices, the challenges women may experience, and how to overcome those challenges.

The head of the Edmonton Women’s Initiative, Marian Bruin, will speak at this session.

“One of the things that’s really exciting is that we have some really good speakers,” Altrogge mentioned.

CAO Emily Olsen will also speak about the municipal side of the issues brought up in this session.

“That’s kind of the orientation session. [We will discuss] maybe some things you didn’t think of, why is it important for women to be represented in municipal governance, and what are some barriers you might face and how can you overcome them,” Altrogge added.

The second session will include a panel discussion, featuring women who are currently holding seats as council members in the region.

Councillors from Hinton, Jasper, Edson, and Yellowhead County will share their experiences with leadership, including the opportunities, challenges, and successes they have encountered. 

The third and final session will focus on building a campaign.

Participants can learn to map out a campaign plan, advertise, and have one-to-one discussions with community members and leaders.

Speakers for this session include strategic marketing expert Jacqueline Delisle, as well as Jasper Coun. Jenna McGrath, who leverages social media to keep her public informed. This session will offer tips and tools to build an effective campaign.

Community Futures and the Town of Hinton worked together to apply for a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to offer this series. 

Through the Women and Gender Equality Canada initiative, the Town was offered a grant. 

“Nancy [Robbins] from Community Futures and Emily Olsen in her previous position worked together and put together a plan and submitted an application and they were successful in receiving the grant,” Altrogge explained.

Although the series was originally scheduled to run in the spring, it was postponed due to the pandemic and is now being held virtually for safety reasons.

The sessions run on Sept. 16, Sept. 23, and Sept. 30.

To register for free, head to