HRM establishes women’s advisory committee

The two women on council work to make female voices heard

The only two women on Halifax regional council led the charge Tuesday to establish the municipality’s first women’s advisory committee.

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll presented the motion and Coun. Lisa Blackburn supported it.

It passed in a unanimous vote.

“I’m speaking on behalf of strong women,” said Nicoll. “Today is a proud day for me, and for all who desire to achieve gender equity in society, but more intentionally in HRM, as an organization and as a municipal unit.”

“I wholeheartedly approve,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn, who was elected deputy mayor earlier in the meeting, said she had been working on this project since 2016, when she was first elected.

The women’s advisory committee will report to the executive standing committee of council. Its purpose is to advise council on matters of gender as it pertains to actions made by the municipality. The goal is to involve more women in municipal government.

A report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Diverse Voices: Tools and Practices to Support all Women, concluded that Halifax should develop a gender equity strategy and create a women’s council. The initiative worked with 250 women in the HRM between 2015 and 2018 and identified a lack of female representation and engagement in municipal politics. This resulted in an absence of all-encompassing policies and practices.

In 2016, the initiative noted only 72 of 307 middle management positions in the HRM were women and of 140 resident advisory committee members, 54 were women. It also found that only two of the 17 councillors were women.

Since 2016, the HRM has doubled the number of women in senior management positions to four, with a drop from seven men to six.

“Despite the great contributions of women in the HRM, they remain underrepresented in the political and corporate leadership levels,” said Nicoll.

The process to create a women’s advisory committee began about a year ago when council asked for a staff report. The new committee is estimated to cost between $2,500 and $5,000.

Nicoll hopes to start recruiting soon.

“I’m already receiving requests from women who are very excited and want to participate and I’ve been directing them to the clerk’s office,” she said.

Lucy Harnish

Lucy Harnish

Lucy is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She hails from Mill Cove, Nova Scotia. Her interest in Russian literature led her to St. Petersburg for a year of language education.

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