by Laura Goddeeris, ICMA director of Survey Research

In celebration of Women’s History Month, ICMA recently hosted the webinar “Interest, Confidence, Risk, Reward: Getting More Women into Local Government Management Positions.” Presented in partnership with the League of Women in Government and the Michigan Municipal League, and moderated by ICMA President Karen Pinkos, the webinar archive is now available for free access on demand.

Research findings provided context to the panel discussion. ICMA has been tracking the status of women in local government management for decades through regular surveys of our members and of the overall profession. We’ve seen the share of women CAOs climb from around one percent in the 1970s to about 20 percent in a period of 30 years.

With significantly more women in the overall local government workforce, why hasn’t that number risen faster? The answers are numerous and interrelated, and a forthcoming report titled “Near the Top,” previewed by University of North Carolina authors Leisha DeHart Davis and Kim Nelson, synthesizes common themes from personal interviews.

But one data-backed observation is that not as many women aspire to reach the chief administrative officer role. We find from member surveys that while 75% of male members identify the CAO role as their ultimate career goal, only half of female members do—and women are much more likely than men to set their sights on an ACAO or director role.

Numbers like these inspired the Michigan Municipal League to create the 16/50 Project, its name a reference to women comprising just 16 percent of the state’s municipal managers compared to 50 percent of the overall population. As described by MML Deputy Executive Director Summer Minnick, the project focuses on three key areas:

  1. Education and engagement of elected officials, where hiring authority rests, to raise awareness and combat selection bias.
  2. Professional development opportunities specifically for women, including the Women’s Municipal Leadership Program.
  3. Proactive recruitment and outreach, encouraging more women to seek and advance in local government management careers.

Frances McMullan, recently appointed city manager of Ypsilanti, Michigan, shared her personal story about how participation in the 16/50 Project provided a necessary boost of confidence. Following over a decade serving as Ypsilanti’s city clerk, she applied for and was hired as CAO within just a few months after completion of the 16/50 training program. Now she’ll join other ambassadors of the program in providing visibility to women in management roles across Michigan.   

The League of Women in Government, an ICMA affiliate, is a vital resource for women in any state seeking networking, professional development, or other support navigating careers in local government. Ashley Jacobs, League president and newly appointed administrator of Beaufort County, South Carolina, also previewed upcoming events and the anticipated update to the 2014 ICMA Task Force on Women in the Profession.

While our panel acknowledged specific needs of and resources for women, this conversation isn’t—and shouldn’t—be exclusive. Whether you are a woman aspiring to advance in your career, someone in a position to hire her, or already a manager and poised to mentor tomorrow’s leaders, this webinar offers insights into roles for all in achieving gender balance in the local government management profession.

Access the webinar archive, available free with the promo code SHELEADSGOV19. And for more news on women in the local government profession, check out @SheLeadsGov on Twitter!

by Paloma Ferreira, marketing and creative services assistant, ICMA 

This Monthly Rundown is a collection of #LocalGov highlights from the month of March. Consider it a friendly reminder of the content you might need to catch up on from ICMA.

What We're Reading

Incorporating Ethics into Everyday Work in Local Government. As ICMA celebrates 95 years of the Code of Ethics, we reflect on how we develop and support ethical local government professionals as a core value in ICMA's mission to advance the profession of local government management. This month's "facts and stats" features highlights from the ICMA Ethics in Local Government survey.

Why Creating a Culture of Trust Is Key for Local Government Boards. Great ideas and improvements often come from citizen feedback, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication active and open. Read more about how municipal leaders can get information out to their citizens, and how they can do it in ways that are understandable, relevant, and cost-effective in this new blog. 

Celebrating Stories of Women in Local Government. We asked our readers to share their stories to help ICMA celebrate Women's History Month! Check out these inspiring stories of women in local government in this interactive story map! #SheLeadsGov

Maximize Your Membership

It's Your Time to Make a Difference: Volunteer! The 2019 call for volunteers is now open with opportunities to give back to the profession.

FREE WEBINAR: Ethics in Action-When It's Your Duty to Say "No". Join us April 10, 2-3:30 p.m. EST for a webinar on spotting prevelant ethics issues and knowing when and how to say "no" as part of the ICMA Coaching Program Webinar Series.

Thrive in Your Career

2019 ICMA Regional Conferences: The 2019 ICMA Regional Conferences will send you home with the ideas and know-how you need to reshape and create new innovations in your organization and community.

Listen to This

Local Gov Life - United Front. Celebrate the end of Women's History Month by listening to this special season of the Local Gov Life podcast. Hear how six female managers are earning the respect of their peers and breaking down barriers they contend with in today's local government profession.

Watch This

UNSCRIPTED with ICMA: Hear from ICMA members who share what ethics mean to them.


For more updates on the latest news about local government, subscribe to the ICMA Blog and watch this space for more blog summaries.

As the momentum around women in the local government management profession builds, it seems more important than ever to promote the triumphs and contributions of women who are breaking down barriers at the municipal level. 

According to a recent PM magazine article, in local government, a little more than 30 percent of elected boards are female and approximately 15 percent of county elected boards are female. In terms of the appointed city and county managers in the United States, less than 15 percent are female.

As the number of women in local government increases, ICMA looks to celebrate stories of women in the profession during Women's History Month. By celebrating women in local government who have made a difference in their communities, we can inspire the next generation of female public servants.

ICMA members are encouraged to submit stories around the following themes:

  • Making a positive difference in your community.
  • Overcoming an obstacle to success.
  • Supporting other women in the profession.
  • Celebrating professional achievements.

Submit your story by March 31 to be featured on our map today! Don't forget to include the #SheLeadsGov!


Interest, Confidence, Risk, Reward: Getting More Women into Local Government Management Positions

This ICMA University Online Classroom webinar presents a discussion about moving the needle on advancing women in the profession. #SheLeadsGov

Join ICMA, the League of Women in Government, the Michigan Municipal League, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill for a webinar on March 26, 2019, 1-2:30pm ET, on the current state of women entering local government management and the amount of progress that has been made in recent years. Our presenters will report on new research data, introduce new professional development models, and provide a range of barrier-breaking ideas and opportunities. Register for the webinar today!