Councils employ more than 45,000 people and are well positioned to lead and champion the case for gender equity.  

While more than half of the administrative workforce in the local government sector is female, less than half of the directors and managers are women. Only one in six chief executive officers of councils are women.

As the level of government closest to communities, it is important that councils reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and represent.  This includes women, young people, people with disabilities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Local Government Victoria (LGV) seeks to support the sector in this space through leadership, coordination and guidance.

Ministerial Women's Roundtable

The Ministerial Women’s Roundtable provides input into the overall local government reform strategy with a focus on actions to improve the career prospects of women in the Local Government sector.

The Roundtable was established to:

  • Advise on strategies and actions to increase the number of women at Chief Executive Officer and senior management levels in the Victorian Local Government sector;
  • Provide advice in relation to the implementation of the Local Government Ministerial Statement; and
  • Provide advice on local government reforms generally.

The Roundtable is chaired by the Minister for Local Government and is made up of all the female chief executive officers of councils as well as representatives from peak bodies and other relevant organisations.

Best practice for gender equity in local government

LGV has developed a best practice guide and supporting research companion, for promoting gender equity in local government. The guide was informed by the findings of the listen, learn and lead gender equity program and was developed with support from the Local Government Ministerial Women’s Roundtable, the local government sector and the Office of Prevention and Women's Equality

The best practice guide for gender equity in local government seeks to support both councillors and senior council managers through provision of practical guidance, case studies and resource materials. These resources will help local governments take practical steps to boost gender diversity in their councils and workforces by offering useful information and helpful suggestions.

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. Improving the diversity of elected representatives at the ‘third tier of government’ can also help restore any lost trust in and engagement with grassroots democracy.

The guide delivers on a key action under the Ministerial Statement on local government to strengthen local support for social inclusion. The guide also supports the Victorian Government’s Gender Equality Strategy  Safe and Strong. This strategy aims to progressively build the attitudinal and behavioural changes required to reduce violence against women and deliver gender equality.

Best practice guide

Best practice guide for gender equity in local government (PDF, 1.3 MB)
Best practice guide for gender equity in local government (DOCX, 82.4 KB)

Research companion

Research companion for gender equity in local government (PDF, 2.5 MB)
Research companion for gender equity in local government (DOCX, 2.7 MB)

Listen, learn and lead gender equity program

LGV developed the local government listen, learn and lead gender equity program in 2017 in consultation with members of the Ministerial Women’s Roundtable.

The listen, learn and lead gender equity program is modelled on the successful champions of change program. It includes the themes of stepping up as leaders, creating accountability, disrupting the status quo, and dismantling barriers to greater gender equity.

The 13-week program supports councils in advancing gender equity and diversity in their organisation by facilitating rich discussions between chief executive officers and council staff about gender equity.

The aim of the program is to identify and implement strategies and actions to improve outcomes for women in leadership positions in council by:

  • Encouraging a deeper level of insight into the barriers to gender equality that need to be tackled within council organisations;
  • Informing the development or enhancement of council’s gender equity actions; and
  • Sharing insights and identifying opportunities for sector-wide action where combining efforts will lead to greater impact.

Findings and evaluation report

The findings and evaluation report detail the themes identified by participating council staff as being the significant challenges to improving gender equity in their workplace. Opportunities for improvement of the program were also documented.

Some of the key themes identified in the report include the need for:

  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Improved maternity leave practices
  • Addressing the 'confidence gap'
  • Gender neutral recruitment initiatives
  • Career planning for emerging women
  • Professional development opportunities

Listen, learn and lead gender equity program findings and evaluation report (PDF, 2.3 MB)
Listen, learn and lead gender equity program findings and evaluation report (DOC, 536.5 KB)

Ballarat City Council
Bass Coast Shire Council
Brimbank City Council
Buloke Shire Council
Cardinia Shire Council
Casey City Council
Colac Otway Shire Council
East Gippsland Shire Council
Glenelg Shire Council
Golden Plains Shire Council
Greater Dandenong City Council
Greater Shepparton City Council
Hobsons Bay City Council
Horsham Rural City Council
Hume City Council
Knox City Council
Latrobe City Council
Loddon Shire Council
Maribyrnong City Council  
Mitchell Shire Council  
Monash City Council
Moorabool Shire Council
Mount Alexander Shire Council
Pyrenees Shire Council
South Gippsland Shire Council
Southern Grampians Shire Council
Wangaratta Rural City Council
Warrnambool City Council
Whitehorse City Council
Yarra City Council
Yarriambiack Shire Council

The Local Government Listen, Learn and Lead Gender Equity Program Webinar outlines the objectives, key steps and recommended timelines of the program. The step-by-step webinar provides information about each step of the Listen, Learn and Lead process that will guide councils in implementing the program in their organisation.

For more information on the best practice guide or the listen, learn and lead gender equity program, please contact:

Eveline Kane
Manager, Policy and Strategy, Local Government Victoria

Rateeb Bhuiyan
Policy and Program Officer, Policy and Strategy, Local Government Victoria

Page last updated: 14/08/19