by Ebony West, communications and marketing intern, ICMA
I have had the opportunity to meet women in various leadership positions within local government. While this representation has been empowering to me as someone who aspires to be a public servant, I cannot help but notice a commonality in the stories these women share: They typically "fall" into their careers and leadership positions in government by accident.
With this narrative rampant, it is no wonder that as an undergraduate student I never considered a career in government. This parallel contradictory to the stories of my male peers in the UNC Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program who shared an early interest in government and the affinity for the women in my cohort for nonprofit careers.
Last week, I attended "Inspiring Women to Local Government Careers," an event hosted by Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) at the UNC School of Government. This half-day symposium aimed to educate undergraduate students at UNC about exciting career options in local government. The symposium featured local women in government who described their jobs, career paths, and public service motivations.
As a current MPA student, I was empowered by these women's stories and the various paths that led them to careers in government. I was equally astounded by the number of undergraduate women with an interest in local government who attended the event.
Through "campfire rotations," the undergraduate women were able to speak one-on-one with women who worked in budgeting and finance, planning, libraries, fire, police, and other areas of government. There also was an opportunity to speak with UNC MPA staff, faculty, and students about the program and how they could pursue an MPA degree.
Engaging women early in a local government career is an important initiative that I am excited to see ELGL and ICMA support. Showing women the representation they have in government and how women are making a difference can help provide inspiration and a platform for young women to pursue public service careers.
Reflecting back on my undergraduate experience, I wish I had the opportunity to meet more women who have local government careers. That representation, mentorship, and guidance is needed and can further amplify the representation of women in government for years to come.
A few things to consider if you are a student, male or female, considering a career in local government. You will:
- Have the opportunity to make a difference in and have an impact on people‘s lives.
- Have diverse responsibilities that vary from day-to-day. There is never a “routine” day in local government management.
- Solve problems by challenging yourself and others.
- Work with colleagues and contemporaries who accept high ethical standards and who actively support these standards through their decisions.
- Know that you can turn to like-minded people for professional guidance to your questions, because they want you to succeed.
- Be a leader and work with other leaders for the betterment of community.
As you think about your future, consider a career in professional local government management. It’s a place where you can make a difference and where you can be the difference. For more, download: Pursue a Rewarding Career: Become a Professional Local Government Manager or visit the Careers in Local Government Management page.
If you are someone who is looking for ways to attract students to the local government management profession, here are some resources to help: