To improve gender equality in local government by increasing the number of elected women councillors

Canada
Germany
Sweden
United Kingdom
USA
Public Service
To improve gender equality in local government by increasing the number of elected women councillors featured image
Coral’s Churchill Fellowship was to improve gender equality in Local Government by increasing the number of elected women Councillors. Whilst women make up more than half the population of Australia, nearly two-thirds of Councillors are men and in 2018 just 11% of Council CEOs or GMs were women. Local Government decisions affect the lives of individuals, families and communities. The gender imbalance of Councils, in turn, affects the policies and services of Councils, as decisions are less robust without diverse perspectives. Coral travelled to the US, Canada, England, Sweden, and Germany to understand what each was doing to elect more women to public office. She met with more than 50 organisations or individuals over an eight-week period, including the Local Government Association in each country, the women who run the programs, government gender equality departments, UN Women, The Inter-Parliamentary Union, MPs, but importantly the people who led the parliamentary inquiries, conducted the research, or run the programmes. Coral found numerous programmes which equip women with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to stand for election. These are very successful and could easily be replicated in Australia. My Fellowship Report details more than 70 programmes. But overseas research shows programmes are not the panacea. Unless the underlying Council structural and cultural barriers, and the increasing problem of sexual harassment, bullying and on-line abuse are addressed, there will be a revolving door of women being elected but not re-standing because of the on-going obstacles. Overseas, experts say rather than “fixing women” it is the system which needs to be fixed. Programmes are regarded as “fixing women”. Overseas, there has been Parliamentary Inquiries and numerous investigations into the systemic barriers which deter women from being elected. Coral’s Fellowship Report details some of these. She found 52 initiatives to encourage women to stand for office and has made 33 recommendations across all three levels of government. The recommendations provide short and long-term solutions across five areas: legislative and structural; changes to the political culture; creating safe and respectful workplaces; creating gender sensitive councils and the empowerment of women. Her recommendations include education programmes in schools and for the public, changes to council structures, policies and meeting times, sexual harassment policies and training, establishing an AskHertoStand campaign, Campaign School type programmes and a Global Network for Women in Local Government. //Please download Coral’s report for a full list of her recommendations and findings.

Fellow

Coral Ross

Coral Ross

VIC
2018

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