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LGC View: Tackling the gender imbalance

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In 2009 LGC did the first comprehensive survey of female chief executives and their deputies. The findings were telling: their pay was on a par with their male colleagues but many had battled discrimination to get to the top and a significant proportion planned to leave local government within two years - particularly first-time chiefs.

Our 2013 gender survey sought answers from men and women, and four economically tough years have made a significant difference.

More men than women are planning to retire or leave, and more women than men are expecting to be promoted.

Contrary to the stereotypes, these women are motivated more than men by span of control, influence and the job challenge.

The research also showed many men feeling discriminated against. But some of the comments made by male respondents indicate that this may be rooted in perception that women get preferential treatment on flexible working.

This in itself reveals continued if more subtle discrimination. As long as flexible working remains seen as ‘special treatment’, equality cannot be achieved. Work/life balance and family life should be an issue not only for women but for men. This requires significant culture change.

Meanwhile, female members have it tougher still. They rarely rise into the stereotyped ‘male’ cabinet positions that offer the opportunity to progress to leader. This is bad for representative democracy as well as councils, members and managers.

Political parties and support bodies have a role to play in tackling this ongoing issue.

Emma Maier

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