Gender disparity in climbing the local government ladder

More women are advancing in local government positions, but they have yet to catch up to men, Governing reports.

Late last year, National Research Center, Inc., released data it had collected over the past five years from 20,000 local government workers in more than 40 jurisdictions. Its survey shows some gender disparities: 39% of men rated their opportunities for promotion as excellent or good, compared to only 29% of women. And 49%of men rated their opportunities for career growth as excellent or good, compared to just 43% of women.

At the end of 2018, only 17.9% of chief administrative officers were women, according to the International City/County Management Association. In 2014, though, that number was 14.4%. And in the mid-1970s, ICMA reported the number of female CAOs at less than 2% (although that figure was not limited to ICMA membership).  

HR leaders say it’s not that women are less qualified for these jobs—it’s that many women think they aren’t qualified.

“Our recruiting people have told us they’ll put out a recruitment for a city manager and the gender norm is that a lot of men will look at the position description and say, ‘I have three of the 20 criteria—I’m going for this job,'” says Pamela Antil, co-founder of the League of Women in Government. “And women will say, ‘I only have 19 of the 20 things they’re looking for—I don’t think I’m ready.'”

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