Championing Change: Leadership in Politics

At local and global levels, women in political leadership face significant challenges, despite their proven abilities as change agents.

In alignment with the our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and principles of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, in 2024, UVic partnered with Equal Voice to host two events that aimed to address disparities and provide tools for change.

2024 Women Leading Change in Politics, Post-Event Highlights

This year, UVic partnered with Equal Voice to spotlight women leading change in politics in hopes of inspiring meaningful action towards greater inclusivity in politics.

The two events inspired meaningful action towards greater inclusivity in politics.

On Sunday, February 25 2024, UVic hosted an interactive, in-person Campaign School. Participants earned a CIFAL certification backed by the United Nations. The course offered skills and resources to run for political office at any level in Canada.

After learning about the elements of a campaign, attendees participated in a condensed mock campaign exercise, which culminated in presentations and two winners!

On Monday, February 26, the Women Leading Change in Politics Panel featured four fabulous speakers and a talented moderator (details below). The conversation was thought-provoking and inspirational while engaging with challenging realities.

“Know who you are, and carry-on full force towards your goals,” Jody Wilson-Raybould said in response to an audience member’s question about how to stay strong as a racialized woman.

When the panelists were each asked to share their origin story, the theme among them was that no one had followed a straight line, and none of them could have predicted they would end up where they are now. “I’m no superhero,” Minister Niki Sharma joked, “I wasn’t bit by a spider.” Most of the panelists shared a driving sense of community service as the foundation of their political journey.

Minister Grace Lore emphasized the shared responsibility for us to ensure we are sending a clear message to racialized and equity-deserving peoples that they also belong in political roles and spaces.

When asked what the most surprising lesson about the world of politics was, Minister Niki Sharma responded that despite the fundamentally personal nature of being a politician, it was essential to learn not to take things personally.

Rachael Segel spoke to the general aversion many people have to admitting their involvement in politics. “Did you eat an egg this morning? Did you take the bus or ride a bike?” She asked the audience. “All of those things are determined by politics,” she said. “From the price of eggs to bike lanes to public transportation routes.”

The evening emphasized the need for women to lift each other up in political spaces and keep forging the path so that others might be inspired to enter the arena. Like with the Campaign School, the energy in the room was powerful.


The Honourable Grace Lore, MLA (BC NDP)

Grace Lore was elected the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill in 2020. She is the Minister of Children and Family Development and previously served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity.

She has been a dedicated anti-violence advocate, academic instructor and researcher, and community housing organizer.

Prior to the election, she taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria and previously at the University of British Columbia. She also worked closely with the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and other anti-violence organizations across the province to support services for communities and survivors.

Grace resides in Victoria with her partner and two young children.


The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Author | Former Member of Parliament | Former Minister of Justice and Attorney
General of Canada

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, KC, MP, formerly represented Vancouver Granville as an Independent member of Parliament. Her distinguished career includes roles as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Associate Minister of National Defence.

 In addition to her parliamentary responsibilities, Jody has contributed significantly to the legal and Indigenous governance landscape. She distinguished herself as a provincial crown prosecutor in Vancouver and held three terms as an elected Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission. In 2009 she assumed the role of BC Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations where she devoted herself to advancing fair access to lands and resources, improved education, and individual health.

She is a descendent of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-kwil-tach peoples, which are part of the Kwakwaka’wakw, also known as the Kwak’wala-speaking peoples. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation and her traditional name is Puglaas.


The Honourable Niki Sharma, Attorney General of British Columbia

Niki Sharma was elected MLA for Vancouver–Hastings in 2020 and is Attorney General. 

Niki is a lawyer whose practice focused on representing Indigenous people, including residential school survivors. Niki has worked throughout B.C. as an advocate on climate policy and reconciliation. She has also been recognized for her work on combatting racism.

Niki was elected to the Board of Vancity Credit Union, where she served as Vice-Chair and chaired the Climate Justice Working Group. She also served as Chair of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. In these roles, she worked to improve her community and make life better for people and our planet.

In 2017, Niki worked as a Senior Ministerial Assistant helping to deliver more childcare spaces for B.C. families.

Niki was raised in Sparwood B.C. A mother of two, she has lived in East Vancouver for over 15 years and has deep connections in the community.

Sharma 3

Rachael Segal Founder of Beyond a Ballot | Lawyer | Media Contributor @cbc | University Lecturer

Rachael is the Founder of Beyond a Ballot, which is a a first-to-market social enterprise that aims to engage women into politics regardless of their previous experience. Rachael is a former issues and policy advisor to senior members of the Canadian Federal Cabinet and the Canadian Senate. She has extensive experience on political campaigns at all levels of government in Ontario and British Columbia. She also has a wealth of legal experience in Criminal Law and Civil Litigation and has offered her insight as a panelist on CBC’s Power & Politics.


Mary Polak, Former MLA and BC Cabinet Minister (moderator)

Mary Polak is one of British Columbia’s leading government and regulatory affairs experts. Mary brings unparalleled knowledge and expertise to policy development, executive decision-making, Indigenous relations, and environmental management.

Having won four provincial elections, Mary has diligently represented her community of Langley as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for over 15 years. Mary spent most of that time as Cabinet Minister delivering for several key portfolios. She served as Minister of Environment, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Minister of Children and Family Development, Minister Responsible for Child Care, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport, and Minister of Health.

During her time in office, Mary was well-recognized for her thoughtful and hard-working approach that helped shape many successful public policies and programs the province benefits from today. Still passionate about advocating for others and public affairs, Mary frequently contributes to political panels and talk shows. Before her time in politics, Mary served as Trustee and Chair of the Surrey School Board.

Mary lives in Langley with her daughter and father, a proud and accomplished Korean War veteran.

Mary Polak
Past events

Women Leading Change was originally developed in partnership between the University of Victoria and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is a key area of focus for both the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. Her Honour has been working to elevate voices and amplify the contributions of women and gender diverse people as a focus to her work as Lieutenant Governor.  

At UVic we are committed to upholding the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights in our living, learning and work environments. We know that diversity underpins excellence, and that we all share responsibility for creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive community.    

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