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A seat at the table

We need to understand the barriers that prevent women from running for office, and encourage them to break through.
The Famous Five (By Trinekc – wikicommons)

Between the start of the MeToo movement, a greater push to end the wage gap between men and women, and the fight for equality gaining more attention overall, progress is finally starting to be made to make sure women’s voices are heard.

But there’s still a lot more to do.

To take equality even further, we as a society not only need to keep changing attitudes, but there’s laws that must be changed as well.

That requires political leadership – by women.

We need more women in politics so that archaic stereotypes are broken, bills like Rona Ambrose’s that require judges to receive sexual assault training are passed, and we bring new perspectives to issues like child care, education, and health care.

It’s not about filling a quota or for a catchphrase. It’s because women are qualified and capable of doing the job and we need them. Quotas leave an incorrect impression that the women who work hard and earn it couldn’t have got there without it.

On this International Women’s Day, as someone whose been a part of the political process and run as a candidate, I want to share some thoughts with all women who’ve thought about running.

1 - #ImWithHer

The first step to getting more women to run is simple: ask them.

It’s hardly done enough, because there are so many talented women who have a passion for politics and the issues we face, but they decide not to run. That’s because we too often worry about commitments to our families, children, and careers – and believe someone else might be better.

I had the same thoughts when Christy Clark first approached me to run. But then I realized we can’t leave it to someone else to get involved in politics.

It’s got to be us.

I was fortunate to have the same kind of encouragement from my husband and my family. And that’s the kind of thinking and leadership we need, from our political leaders down to us as citizens, to encourage women to run.

2- Ignore the Haters

Politics can be nasty, and it’s been made worse by the rise of social media and Twitter, where thoughtfulness and decency are put aside for attacks and loud opinions. More often than not, women also face an extra layer of attacks about their appearance or competence, and with a tone that is abusive, degrading, and even sometimes violent.

There are also senseless comments made offline, like being told you look “chubbier” on the signs than in person (true story).

In my mind, there is only one real response: ignore it. Don’t dignify them with a response.

We can’t let their sexism change us or what we’re trying to do. We can’t give strength to their weak thinking.

Instead, ignore it, stay focused on the task at hand – and literally add women to change everything.

3 - Run. 

Last thing. You can do it. If you believe you have something to offer your community or have an idea you want to make happen, then get involved and make it happen.

You might not feel confident or have all the answers – that’s okay, as long as you keep moving towards your goal.

It’s up to us to make sure the next generation of women don’t face the same kind of inequality. Running for office isn’t the only answer, but we need to get involved and make our voice heard.

We’re fortunate to live in a country like Canada that strongly recognizes women’s rights. But to continue making progress, we need to make sure we’re at the decision-making table.

Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and fight for what's yours – an equal opportunity to make your dreams come true.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C and practices in the area of Real Estate Law and Land Development. She has and continues to serve on boards for numerous organizations including the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society, the Legal Services Society of BC, City of Surrey Board of Variance. She was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her volunteerism and work in the community.