If you passed up on today’s #GenderBalance session held by League of Women in Government, you missed out on what was quite possibly the most interesting and encouraging conversation about diversity and inclusion in local government. It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the #13Percent or the other 87%, today’s speakers inspired attendees to act with intention and be strategic about working towards inclusivity – not just with women, but all under-represented groups. These 5 points really resonated with me.
1. “I feel like I could do the job, but I don’t want it as it is.”
There is a perception that the position of city manager is incompatible with the way that a lot of women want to lead their lives. The position, as it currently exists, is seen to require a lot of sacrifices in order to be successful. However, as Julie Voorhees, President & CEO of GovHR USA pointed out, assistant city manager positions are often more demanding than that of city managers. City managers have more control over their schedule and are capable of making time for family or other priorities.
2. “Don’t be afraid to coach people out of your organization.”
Creating opportunities for women to gain the knowledge and experience needed to move up to city management is the responsibility of all managers. But it’s also important to recognize when someone would benefit from experience gained elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to coach someone to seek employment elsewhere if it would truly benefit them.
3. “Look for talent vs. tenure and title.”
It was great to hear someone else verbalize what I wish were the case. As an emerging leader, it is frustrating to lose out on opportunities because you are perceived to not have the knowledge or experience that a more senior employee has. How is one to acquire the experience if they are not first given the chance to succeed? The idea here is that managers should intentionally seek out talented women to lead projects in order to broaden their experience base and better prepare them for future challenges.
“Power and inequality don’t just work around us, they work through us.”
This was a powerful statement by Dr. Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg’s best seller Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Every day, whether consciously or not, both men and women behave in a way that perpetuates society’s view that men are more competent than women. Inequality is not only present in structural barriers like inflexible policies. It is also present in the way we relate to our children, the way we speak about other women, and the way we think about our abilities.
“Mentorship vs. Sponsorship”
There are an increasing number of women who are stepping up to mentor other women and help them along their career path. But mentorship is not enough. Women need sponsors who are willing to use their political capital to advance the careers of other women. Women also need to focus on being strategic in building their networks. They should seek out sponsors who are willing to help them and make networking part of their “day job.”