Connecting state and local government leaders
To tackle the “13 percent” quandary, it’s time to create positive feedback loops for women in local administration.
A study published in the International City/County Management Association’s PM Magazine January-February issue found that only 13 percent of chief administrative officers in local government are women.
That figure, 13 percent, has been a rallying call for the Emerging Local Government Leaders professional group, which has aimed to raise greater awareness around the gender equity gap in leadership in local government administration. ELGL hosted a recent webinar to discuss the reasons why there’s such a wide gap and look at possible ways to close it.
In a recent blog post, ELGL member Patrick Rollens—who in his day job manages communications and social media for the village of Oak Park, Illinois—explores what local governments could learn from the non-profit community, which has had a better track record of women in administrative or leadership positions.
Rollens interviewed Margaret Henderson, a lecturer in public administration and government at the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, about the differences between the experiences for women in local government and the non-profit leadership. In part, it comes down to two factors: Women are more drawn to the social mission of non-profits than men are and women are more willing to accept the lower compensation that comes with that social mission.
“Accepting those lower wages for the privilege of working on these very important nonprofit missions is easier to do when there is a spouse [or] partner with a larger, stable salary or some other source of income, and many women accept those lower wages without any support from anywhere else,” Henderson told Rollens.
For the local government community, there may be a path forward on the social mission component. Non-profits often create a positive feedback loop for women, inspiring a younger generation of women to follow in the footsteps of women who have been drawn to the social mission of non-profits.
And that positive feedback loop could be replicated for women in local government.
This, then, seems to be the formula for creating our own positive feedback loop in local gov:
- Leadership roles that inspire admiration, not yawns, from the next generation of leaders. This might involve asking some hard questions about the words we use to describe these roles. Are tomorrow’s graduates really bursting with excitement to start a career as an assistant to the aide to the deputy city manager?
- Mentors sharing knowledge at key points along their career path. And not just 30-year veterans looking back on full, rewarding careers—we need insight from folks who are just 5 or 10 years into their career. These people often have a completely different perspective.
- Clear, distinct points of entry into the local government sector. College programs, internships, professional organizations, mentoring, and ultimately entry-level positions—these are vital.
Read Rollens’ full post here.