Guest post by Annie N.
One of the goals of the Feminist Majority Foundation is to see more women in leadership. At the Feminist Majority, we support progressive female candidates, with goals of furthering women’s rights. Awesome right? Right! So when I heard that Australia named 2010 the year for women in local government I jumped for joy, literally, and decided to cover exactly what they are doing.
You can check out their website here, but, in summary, they are creating an initiative that would fund scholarships, programs, and research to advance women in local government. They are conducting research to further their understanding of why women make up smaller portions of local government.
While this is obviously a fantastic move for women in Australia, and hopefully an influential example for us here, some have spotted flaws in their efforts. Feministing has pointed out that:
“The site’s ‘ambassadors’ of the movement are almost all white, with one Aboriginal woman. Second, the government has invested in the idea that the best way to recruit and retain women in local government is to conduct studies.”
I am always somewhat weary of initiatives with the main objective to “raise awareness” with no radical plans for change. We can see throughout women’s history past fantastic initiatives ignored by government (e.g. the National Womens Conference).
However, I think Australia is covering more ground then just awareness. While they are putting money toward developing studies and strategies with the end goal of more women in office (which is rad on its own), they are also awarding scholarships, and creating gender checks and balances for their local councils and workplaces.
The Government’s commitment includes (via Feministing):
- $250,000 for a three-year 50:50 Vision: Councils for Gender Equity program which will audit councils and shires to determine the status and role of women in leadership roles as well as their participation in the workplace
- $100,000 in scholarship funding to enable senior women in local government to participate in the new Executive
- Leadership Program being developed by the Australian Center of Excellence for Local Government and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government
- $100,000 to improve the collection of data and reporting on the status of women in the local government sector
- $40,000 to the Local Government Managers Australia for their 2010 Management Challenge, which will involve around 130 councils identifying strategies to promote gender equity in their councils.
Altogether I think this is fantastic. Any step toward a more equal world for women is always an A+ in my book, and while all initiatives have flaws, I think this will be a great year for women in Australia.
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