By MELANIE EKSAL Penticton Herald
(From left) Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, city councilor Judy Sentes, city councilor-elect Katie Robinson, Summerland Mayor-elect Toni Boot, and Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen chair Karla Kozakevich answered questions posed by Helena Konanz and the crowd Wednesday evening at Time Winery. Konanz hosted the event titled “Women in Politics.”
Five veteran female politicians told a crowd Wednesday that finding inner confidence is the key to success, no matter age or gender.
The event, dubbed Women in Politics, was hosted by Helena Konanz, an outgoing Penticton city councillor and current federal Conservative candidate.
“If you see a good person out there, it doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman, make sure that you support them,” said panelist Karen Vecchio, an Ontario Conservative MP.
“Make sure you have the best person on the ballot.”
She also told the crowd that being a mother of five was her biggest challenge, but she knew she could be both a great mother and a successful politician, and gave thanks to her husband.
“Finding that balance can be very difficult,” she said. “But I married someone that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who’s the breadwinner.”
Penticton city Coun. Judy Sentes was next to speak and agreed with Vecchio. Her confidence in her answer spoke to the advice she was giving, as she didn’t shy away from speaking to the gender stereotypes women often find themselves placed in.
“I think confidence is the biggest thing that challenges women more than men,” she began.
“I also think the other thing is that role that women get put into of being wife and mother and homemaker, and it truly is conflicting when you consider what the time commitment is to be in politics. So the spousal support is critical.”
Sents also suggested her hopes of one day seeing an allowance for women who join politics to help with child minding, and even spoke to difficulties women face in the workplace.
She later spoke to the reality of being, at one time, the only woman on city council and RDOS. While the men were “lovely” to her, she described their attitude as “patting her on the head” while not really wanting to hear from her.
Katie Robinson, a former Penticton city councillor who was recently elected to a fresh term, attributed her confidence and success to her upbringing, dubbing herself an “army brat” who was involved in sports.
“I was very fortunate. I had a mother and father that just said the world’s your oyster, and anything you set your sights on you can achieve,” she said. “I think that’s so important to pass on the knowledge you have, and that the only barrier you have is yourself.”
Summerland Mayor-elect Toni Boot spoke to her dedication of always accepting a challenge, but also to having the support from mentors in her life, many of whom were sitting at the table by her side.
“I grew up understanding that a challenge was there, take it or leave it. And it was always, ‘I’m going to take it’,” she said. “Much like Judy and Karen and Katie, the mentoring is really, really important.”
“I don’t think there are any barriers,” concluded Karla Kozakevich, Naramata director for the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen, noting that she had to hold her own as the only girl in her family that included two brothers.
“I had great role models – it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, just do what you want to do.”
Kozakevich added that she’s always willing to work with anyone, no matter their gender, but gave kudos to women for their analytical perspectives in politics.