London city hall: City hopes to diversify advisers, senior staff, candidates

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You can’t get elected unless you run.

That’s the message one London politician has for women and those in marginalized groups as election season approaches.

But politicians also agreed a push for diversity has to start inside city hall.

London’s goal is to have more women — of all ages, races and educational backgrounds — on the city’s advisory committees, boards, and commissions.

Politicians said they’re also committed to pushing toward the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ goal of seeing 30 per cent of municipal seats in Canada filled by women by 2030.

Right now, four out of London’s 14 ward councillors — about 28.5 per cent — are women. All four are white.

“It’s our diversity that makes us better,” Coun. Maureen Cassidy said. “It’s important to increase that as much as we can.”

And though London’s council is close to 30 per cent female, there’s no reason to stop there, she added.

“It’s not an end goal.”

The numbers are worse inside city hall’s governance groups.

A voluntary survey conducted by the city showed only two per cent of women from diverse backgrounds participate in the city’s advisory committees, commissions and boards.

“We don’t have a (full) conversation. We don’t have everyone at the table that we should,” Cassidy said.

Members of the corporate services committee directed staff to put together an implementation plan to bring more diversity to governance groups.

“We’ve really, really got to be bold,” Coun. Harold Usher said. “We’ve got to make some intentional effort to include women in our governments.”

And Usher hopes the work will spread father than just those committees and boards — he wants to see better gender parity when it comes to elected officials and city staff.

“Even when we look at the demographics of staff . . . this number is so skewed that it isn’t even funny,” he said.

Usher said he encourages many young people to run for politics — even against him in his ward.

“We’ve got a lot of smart people from the diverse communities out there,” he said. “What we need to do is bring them in.”

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