Pathways to Power: Women in Politics

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Lord Varys: Power is a curious thing, my lord. Are you fond of riddles?
Tyrion Lannister: Why? Am I about to hear one?
Lord Varys: Three great men sit in a room: a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword [mercenary]. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?
Tyrion Lannister: Depends on the sellsword.
Lord Varys: Does it? He has neither crown, nor gold, nor favor with the gods…
Lord Varys: Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow. – Game of Thrones, Season 2

Last night I attended the Ontario Bar Association’s event Pathways to Power: Women in Politics.

Former politicians Barbara Hall, Martha Findlay, and Gina Branman encouraged us to get involved in politics and to be principled in our partisanship, honest, and confident. They warned that the media can smell dishonesty. “If you’re dishonest and lack in principle you will get nailed.”

They also touted experience and encouraged women (and men) to enter elected office later in life. Often times, we discuss how to get young women involved. But, mature women have a lot to offer and bring a wealth of experience with them.

Furthermore, they all emphasized the importance of a thick skin. “Let it roll off your back.” Gina quoted Martha Findlay and said:

I can’t tell you the number of women who say, I don’t know if I have a thick-enough skin, or I don’t know if I have what it takes. And I look at them and think: Okay, you told me you have three children. You started your own business. You now employ 73 people. And you tell me you don’t have a thick-enough skin and you don’t think you have what it takes? Look in a mirror. Why is it that some people who are so capable and so accomplished somehow still don’t think they have what it takes?

Martha Findlay also quoted the premier of British Columbia Christy Clark’s response to the media when asked by journalist Bill Good how she planned to balance her role as a mother with the responsibilities of serving as provincial premier:

Stephen Harper manages to go home for dinner with his kids every night, or most nights when he’s in the country, and he has breakfast with them in the morning, and he’s a pretty busy guy. He does a pretty good job. Every family has their own circumstances and makes their own decisions. I’ve talked about this with my family. My son is no longer a toddler. We’ve had this conversation. And we can handle it.

Hopefully, one day we will see just as many women casting shadows on the wall as men.

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