In our July issue, LG Focus reported on the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) National General Assembly keynote presentation by Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, Adj. Prof Virginia Hausegger, who asserted that local government has been unable to break through the 30 percent barrier for gender equity across the sector.

However, Adj. Prof Hausegger did single out Victorian councils for a highly commended, noting that at the 2016 elections women councillors reached 38 percent.

At the same time 13 of the state’s councils only had one elected female representative.

While progress can be seen in numbers of women running for and being elected to council, women’s progress reaching leadership roles among administrative staff is not so commendable.

In the years between 2000 and 2017 female chief executive officers advanced from 11 to 13.

The State Government’s figures demonstrate that women hold only 34 percent of director and 39 percent of manager roles in a workforce exceeding 45,000 of which 60 percent are women.

There is still a long way to go before there can be said to be equity in Local Government.

One of the reasons analysts such Adj. Prof Hausegger are so positive about the achievements of the sector in Victoria is the amount of work being invested in searching for solutions.

The Best Practice Guide for gender equality in Local Government launched by Local Government Minister, Marlene Kairouz, at the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) State Election Series forum on 19 July is a guide with “practical steps to boost gender diversity in councils and workforces by offering useful information and helpful suggestions.”

The Victorian Government website promotes the push for gender equity as necessary for true and fair representation of the community and good business sense.

“As the level of government closest to communities, it’s important that local governments reflect the makeup of the communities they serve including women, young people, people with disabilities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“Implementing gender equity strategies makes it easier for councils to tap into new pools of talent for elected officials and staff, bolster professional development, and retain female staff and councillors.”

Some of the strategies proposed in the Guide include increasing access to leadership development opportunities for female employees including professional development, mentoring, sponsorship and secondments, changing organisational culture with recruitment policies that include gender quotas, using gender neutral language on position descriptions and job ads and training staff in unconscious bias.

Victorian local governments are stepping up to the plate on the issue. The community has given their nod through by voting for women when given the option. It is now up to councillors and council workers to implement the Best Practice Guide and for real progress on the road to gender equity in the sector.