One moment...

Celebrating Women in Local Government


In honor of Women's History Month, here's an update on a series of ICMA activities designed to support women in the profession plus a short member essay on what it's like to interview for a local government position.

March is Women’s History Month, an annual event that highlights the contributions of women to history and contemporary society. March 8 is International Women’s Day, which focuses on the economic, political, and social achievements of women.

Throughout the month, ICMA will use this theme to highlight how far the local government management profession has come regarding women in the work environment and key leadership positions—and how much work remains to be done. 

According to our January 2017 statistics, 29 percent of the 6,820 members working in local government are women. Of the 3,406 members who are chief administrative officers (CAOs), nearly 16 percent are women, and just over 37 percent of ICMA member assistants and deputy CAOs are women. To check out the stats for your state, take a look at this state-by-state overview.

We continue our firm commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on Women in the Profession. The final report from that task force provides the framework for an ongoing work plan to support women in the local government management profession and to ensure that local governments and the association reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

In conjunction with Women Leading Government, in 2016 we conducted a special session at each of the ICMA Regional Summits titled "You Have What it Takes to be a Resilient Leader.” Panels moderated by then-ICMA President Pat Martel included city/county managers, assistant managers, nontraditional department heads, and recruiters. The 2016 annual conference program also featured a half-day ICMA University symposium on gender balance, which was attended by more than 150 registrants. More than a dozen educational sessions, roundtables, and forums addressed the issue of expanding the presence of women in the profession.

The 2017 ICMA Regional Summits will feature a panel moderated by current ICMA President Lee Feldman titled "Equity and Inclusivity in the Workplace and Our Communities." Panelists will discuss successful examples of workforce diversification and equitable service delivery from their own local governments. The 2017 annual conference program will also feature a half-day ICMA University symposium that expands the gender balance issue to include the broader topics of equity and inclusivity. Conference tracks will include educational offerings on "Equity, Inclusivity, and Social Justice" as well as "Women in Management." 

To kick off a month-long series of related articles, in this issue we highlight a column that was originally featured in the special anniversary issue of PM magazine published September 2014. In that column, ICMA Credentialed Manager Melissa Mundt, then assistant city manager in Ames, Iowa, and now assistant county administrator with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County-Kansas City, Kansas, talked about interviewing for a local government position—and the interesting dynamics of that interview. Take a few minutes to read about Melissa’s experience and then use the comment section to share your experiences regarding women in the local government workplace. 

Mundt MelissaMelissa Mundt

“We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby"….Or Have We?
by Melissa Mundt, County Administrator
Unified Government of Wyandotte County-Kansas City, Kansas

Years ago, I was asked in an interview if wearing a skirt made it hard for me to do my job. At first, I was confused by the question, because I was not having any trouble with the suit and felt confident in how the interview had been going. The sad part is that this question came from a tenured manager.

I answered the question by stating I was not sure what wearing a skirt implied about the job or my abilities to do the work in a professional manner. The conversation thereafter confirmed it was about being a female in the management role.

I was later offered the job and declined it. A male was offered the job, however, at significantly more money and with no significant resume differentials. Unfortunately, this one experience opened my eyes and made me aware for the first time that there is still discrimination out there in the workforce related to gender.

I had not really seen it up to that point in my career, and for this I was fortunate. I had always felt that I was an equal when competing for roles for local government positions because of the foundation of education and experience that brought my resume to the top of the list.

Today, I feel this continues to be the case. I have been enjoying increased responsibilities in my career, and I continue to develop my professional skills to meet the ever-changing environment of our profession. Local government offers women a great career and the diversity of experiences that come with working with people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures.

It has truly enriched my life and allows me to work on my passion of helping others, skirt or pants!

Comments & Ratings

Please sign in to rate this article.

 One moment...

Robert Beezat
5/5

Robert Beezat said

The first woman manager I met in local government was Marilynne Davis. She was the Village Manager in Richton Park, IL from 1977 to 1981. I met her when I worked for Paul Reaume of THE PAR Group on an Executive Search for the Village Manager position in Flossmoor, IL. Prior to serving as Manager of Richton Park, Marilynne served as an Assistant Manager in Skokie, IL. I think Marilynne was the first woman manager in Illinois. After serving in Flossmoor, Marilynne became a City Manager in Florida. I think she was the first woman manager in Florida. Paul Reaume was a pioneer in the field of executive search for municipalities. In that role, he was always advocating for broadening the profession to everyone who wanted to serve in municipal manager positions. He helped open many doors for everyone interested in serving in local government.

I am wondering if ICMA has a list or could create a list of the early women managers overall and by State. It would be great to see that list. I think it would also be great if ICMA interviewed some of those early women managers and shared their stories.

Heidi Voorhees

I think that's a great idea, Bob! When I first attended ICMA conferences in the mid 1980's I would go to conference sessions where I thought I would see women city managers. It is so important to have role models and to know our history.

Karl Nollenberger

I sure would like to see a list like Bob suggested! Thank goodness the world has moved forward!

Kathleen Rush

Excellent idea for the article series on the pioneering women of local government. I had the good fortune of meeting Marilynne Davis when she served in Richton Park. Attending lunches for the profession during the 1980's was an eye opener - so very few women managers to serve as role models. I hope ICMA picks up your suggestion.

Related Articles

stay connected

follow us