Some high-profile female politicians were in Nanaimo to share their views on how to get more women involved in all levels of government. More than 120 people showed up for the event on Sunday afternoon at The Grand Hotel. The panel included Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Nanaimo City Councillor Diane Brennan, and Sheila Malcolmson, NDP nominee for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Elizabeth May says making federal politics more civil and respectful will attract more women, but she said it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, because the tone won’t change until more women get involved. Federally, 24% of MPs are women.

Meanwhile, 39% of municipal Councillors elected across BC in November were women, up from 32% in 2011, and 28% of BC mayors elected in 2014 were women. Equal Voice BC Chair Carolyn Jack says that’s an improvement, but there’s still a ways to go.

When it comes to representation at the provincial level, 36% of BC MLAs are women, which is better than the national average.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is Regional Chief with the BC Assembly of First Nations, and a Councillor with the We Wai Kai Nation on the north Island. She says a growing number of women are leading First Nations communities too.

Wilson-Raybould says all levels of government should better reflect the society in which we live, which means equal representation. She is running for the Liberals in the riding of Vancouver Granville.

One of the main messages during the event was the importance of asking women to run if you think they would be a good candidate, and then supporting them once they make the leap. Fundraising and campaigning can be daunting, which is part of the reason the event’s organizers are planning to start a Women’s Campaign School in Nanaimo.

Erin Rennie with the Canadian Women Voters Congress says it’s a great way to teach women the skills they need.

The WCS idea has already proven very successful in places like Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast.