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Politics Lone Fredericton woman says fellow councillors shut her out when she pushes for diversity

The only woman on Fredericton city council says she feels shut out when trying to advocate for change.

Kate Rogers said Wednesday she has decided to speak out publicly because her private efforts weren’t working.

“It’s a problem that there is such limited female representation on council. It really affects the decisions that we make, it affects how we make those decisions and how we converse over those decisions,” she said.

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“It’s not healthy to have a monoculture,” said Rogers, who is also executive director of the Fredericton Community Foundation.

Rogers was one of three women elected to city council seven years ago, but the only one to win election in 2016.

The city often appoints members of the public to various committees, but Rogers said too often there are few or no women appointed. She said that when she asks why, she’s told there were no good women to appoint.

“That has been frustrating,” she said.

Rogers said it’s up to city hall to create a space where all feel welcome and where there is shared gender representation, but recently she’s feeling less and less a part of the team.

“If I don’t speak out and just go along, everyone is perfectly friendly. But when I begin to really air my views and share my values about why we should move in a certain direction, that’s when I begin to feel excluded,” she said.

Leanne Fitch, the city’s former police chief, offered support of Rogers on Twitter, saying “Accountability for misogyny CityFredGov is long over due. I’ve seen it, felt it, experienced it.”

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Fitch added: “All levels of government have a fundamental responsibility to ensure diversity, respect, fairness and inclusion. Not only in political realms, but as politicians they set the tone for senior staff who carry out the work and influence workplaces.”

Rogers said speaking to the media about the issue probably won’t help her, but she is hopeful it will result in greater public support for gender diversity at city hall.

“For me … I don’t know that it could be a lot worse, to be honest. I’ve tried for seven years to try to do this in closed settings in our meetings, in private conversations, I’ve made a lot of effort without going public. We need to make changes, and the only way I see now is if the public puts pressure on council,” she said.

Mayor Mike O’Brien did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rogers said O’Brien has said to her that more women need to run for city council. She said for that to happen, City Hall has to become a more inviting space for women.

The next council elections will be held in 2020, but Rogers said she has not decided if she will seek re-election.

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