Huron celebrates the release of Dr. Kate Graham’s book Govern Like a Girl
For Flora with love and hope
When Huron’s Dr. Kate Graham was writing the dedication for her book, Govern Like a Girl, the words came easily as she thought of her baby daughter, Flora. “I love her and I have hopes for her, too,” shares Dr. Graham. “I want her to know that women can, and should, lead.”
In 2019, Dr. Graham set off on a trek across Canada to interview the women who have reached Canada’s top political roles.
More than 300 people have served as first ministers (prime minister or premier) in Canada. Only 13 have been women. There are some concerning similarities to their stories: they rise in difficult ‘glass cliff’ circumstances; they serve for half as long as men, and when they run for re-election, they lose. Canadians have never re-elected a female first minister.
Dr. Graham at the Govern Like a Girl launch event in Huron's new academic building.
“I wanted to know why,” explains Dr. Graham. “I wanted to know why there were so few women. Why their terms are only half as long as men and why, when they run for re-election, they don’t get back in.”
Travelling from coast to coast to coast and conducting interviews with all 13 women led to the creation of the No Second Chances podcast. No Second Chances, in reference to the fact not one of the female First Ministers have been re-elected.
The hugely successful podcast was garnering more than 80,000 listeners per week a fact which was satisfying for Dr. Graham. “It taught us there’s a hunger to learn what it’s like to be a politician, to go behind the curtain.”
The First Ministers were brutally honest, shares Dr. Graham. A viral clip online includes the various insults and slurs hurled at the women, including one particular gem - ambitious.
The podcast, explains Dr. Graham, tells one story but of 13 women over three decades.
A book was always the intention after the podcast and while a children’s book wasn’t at the top of Dr. Graham’s mind, her publisher suggested it and she started writing.
“I felt a sense of urgency in getting the book written,” she says.
Research suggests that children as young as ages 2-3 can internalize the message a message about what it takes to be a leader. When almost all of top political leaders are older, white men, it sends a message that political leadership is not a path open to everyone.
Govern Like a Girl is the culmination of her research but presented in a way which is relatable to children. “I want kids to know that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you start, political leading can be a path for you,” says Dr. Graham. “We need leaders with diversity and we don’t have that today.”
Huron has always been on this journey with Dr. Graham, too.
A virtual launch party for Govern Like a Girl was held here with Dr. Graham in conversation with female student leaders. And, in pre-pandemic times, Dr. Graham’s students travelled with her to Ottawa to attend the No Second Chances wrap party.
She was teaching her Women in Politics class the summer of 2019 and, through support from Dr. Geoff Read, Provost & Dean, and Dr. Neil Bradford, funds were made available to help the students carpool to attend the event which featured Canada’s female First Ministers.
After the event, Dr. Graham took her class out for dinner and The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, Canada’s first and only female Prime Minister, joined the group. A student in Dr. Graham’s class had recently finished a paper on mandatory voting and took advantage of the proximity to the history maker to begin a debate on the subject. “And she totally held her own” exclaims Dr. Graham of her former student. “It’s one of my favourite moments.”
Dr. Graham praises Huron for its efforts to educate and send into the world Leaders with Heart. “In my view, that’s what we need more of, to build a better democracy, to build us the politics we deserve, is more leaders with heart, especially with women.”
While Dr. Graham’s successful podcast may be called No Second Chances, that’s not an accurate title. Season two, says Dr. Graham, will be available within a matter of weeks. The podcast will feature interviews with women in leadership from around the world including New Zealand, Taiwan, Costa Rica, the United States and Denmark, among others.
The podcast will aim to bring insight into what Canada can learn from other countries in terms of female leadership.
Another book, one geared towards adults, is also in development. Also titled, No Second Chances, the book will delve far more in depth into the history of the 13 Canadian First Ministers, their rise and fall and the politics that surrounded them.
As for Dr. Graham’s daughter, Flora, the now 13-month-old doesn’t seem at all phased by her Mom’s success even though she was instrumental in the creation of everything. “She’s an enthusiastic listener,” shares Dr. Graham. “Especially before she was born.”
You can learn more about Govern Like a Girl and find out where to pick up your copy at https://www.governlikeagirl.ca/.