Fewer than one in five Victorian council CEOs are women

By David Donaldson

March 8, 2016

Women continue to be underrepresented in the senior ranks of local councils, according to data released for International Women’s Day.

Only 16.5% of Victorian local government CEOs are women, says the state’s Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins. Yet despite being thin on the ground at the top, women make up 60.8% of all those employed by the third tier of government.

The situation is not quite as bad among elected representatives as their CEOs, with 34.9% of Victoria’s 624 councillors being women. While seven of the state’s 79 local governments have only one female councillor, currently none have zero. Two councils, Port Phillip City and Melton Shire, have five female councillors out of seven.

The most up-to-date information listed on the Local Government NSW website states that, in 2010, women comprised 46% of NSW’s council workforce and 16% of executive positions.

A nationwide survey in 2012-13 found that 25% of CEOs and 33% of managers were female. There is a notable gender divide between subject area — in human and community services 63% of managers are women, compared to 15% in engineering and infrastructure.

Hutchins has written to all mayors to seek their council’s support in encouraging more women to stand as candidates in the upcoming October elections. The Victorian government is providing $50,000 for the Victorian Local Governance Association’s GoWomenLG 2016 project, which aims to increase the number of female candidates across the state. She said in a statement:

“It’s unacceptable that in 2016 women still only make up around a third of all councillors and that they still don’t reach the senior management levels within their organisations.

“Improving the representation of women at the senior level in both the public and private sectors is a key priority for the Labor government and one we work tirelessly to achieve.”

State government fares better. In Victoria females comprised 44% of public sector executive positions in 2015, while in New South Wales, around 41.8% of public service executives are women.

As Victorian Public Service Commissioner Belinda Clark told The Mandarin in January, this did not come about by accident:

“The increase reflects a concerted effort and strong commitment from public sector leaders to increase the numbers of women at executive level to levels more proportionate to their levels of participation in the workforce.

“We have achieved this by increasing development opportunities for women and increasing awareness of barriers such as unconscious bias at work in promotion processes, while still applying the merit principle.”

Service NSW ’employer of choice for women’

In celebrating International Women’s Day on Tuesday, Service NSW CEO Dr Rachna Gandhi took the opportunity to promote her agency as “an employer of choice for women in NSW”, a situation “reflected not just in the number of our female employees, but also in the representation in executive and management roles”.

Its workforce is over 70% female, she said — higher than the broader NSW Public Service. And unlike some other agencies, this number holds up fairly well at the executive level, with over 60% of organisational leaders being women. Her statement said:

“Service NSW has a strong culture of supporting women in our workplace and these strong figures highlight the diversity and inclusion that we encourage, support and promote.”

The organisation is running an internal campaign called Giving Service Back #thankingyou:

“… where we are encouraging all employees to actively recognise, celebrate and thank their female colleagues for their passion, teamwork and accountability — the values by which Service NSW subscribes.”

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