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Creating a more inclusive culture must start at the top

Creating a more inclusive culture must start at the top

A hundred years after women first won the right to vote, they now occupy 75% of local government jobs, according to research from Dods. Yet despite this, women are still woefully underrepresented in senior positions.

Only a quarter of local authority chief executives are women. And it’s a similar story on the political side.

May’s council elections saw women win just a third of seats, a 3% rise on 2014, with almost half of councils seeing their proportion of women decrease or remain static.

Given the profound contribution women are making across every section of society, this simply isn’t good enough. In my daily work, I’m constantly impressed by the women I encounter and their ability to inspire others, drive progress and embrace change.

Launched earlier this year, the inaugural Female GovTech Leaders ranking, sponsored by Agilisys, celebrates the talented women across the public sector who are trailblazers and transformers in digital technology today.

These leaders come from diverse backgrounds and often followed non-traditional career paths, overcoming many barriers to reach where they are today. As such, they offer a crucial example for others to follow.

It’s long past time for us all to recognise that diversity in senior leadership positions, diversity – of race, gender, sexual orientation and more – will help build stronger and more resilient public services. Inclusivity offers a wider range of perspectives and ideas, accelerating innovation and helping local government attract, engage and retain the talent they need.

To reach this goal, much more needs to be done. Local government must better support female officers and councillors with leadership mentoring, flexible working and consistent parental policies. Quotas, though controversial, are another step forward. Where we monitor and measure progress, it motivates us to work harder and allows others to see the difference we’re making.

We recognise that as a partner to local government, we too play an important role in delivering this agenda within the sector. The Agilisys Women Empowerment (AWE) network helps women excel and encourages them to enter technology-related fields.

This has also prompted a root and branch review of our recruitment process and greater transparency and pragmatism in our approach to tackling diversity.

On the centenary of women gaining the right to vote, it’s time for all of us in leadership positions to place greater value on diversity to ensure inclusion and opportunity for all. We’re keen to support organisations on this journey towards greater transparency and stronger performance.

Together we can all help challenge the norm in local government and encourage women to aim for the top.