FOR 12 years Jill Parker has been the only woman on Moyne Shire Council.
One of her hopes for the next crop of councillors is that there be at least more than one female sitting at the table.
"There were times early in my council career, and I still remember it vividly today, we had a presentation from some people who wanted to develop something in Moyne and the man went around the room and shook hands with all the men and ignored me completely," she said.
"I think he thought I was the office girl or something. The men actually stood up for me and said excuse us you've ignored a councillor. He didn't ignore me a second time.
"When there's only one female in the room it's a bit blokey at times and you're not considered to have as much input as the others."
Cr Parker, who has held a number of volunteer roles in her community and was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2019, put her hand up for mayor last year but lost out.
It's not the first time she had nominated for the role and been denied the opportunity.
Asked if her gender and being the sole woman on the council played a part in her not being mayor, Cr Parker said she thought it had.
"But I think the male councillors would disagree," she said.
"I didn't have the allegiances. The one thing I have noticed that if you raise the gender issue the men get very defensive."
Cr Parker, who will retire from council at the upcoming election, said more women on local government provided a diversity of ideas.
"It's not them and us but it is better if there are both genders there because you do get a bit more diversity of ideas and I do admit to the fact that I sometimes felt like I was in a minority on certain issues," she said.
"I think women underestimate their own skills and abilities, so I agree it's daunting when you're first approached about standing for council and you think of all those things that you may not know or be able to do, but you're not thrown to the wolves, all of the officers are there to provide you with the information that you need and there's adequate training that goes along with it so you're educated to deal with the things that you're given.
"If you're going to be talking about standing for election, you've just got to have belief in yourself and show that you're confident even if you don't always feel that way, I think men are much better at bluffing then we are.
"For women you've got to believe in yourself and stand up for what you do believe in. It might seem daunting but you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time so don't be overawed or overwhelmed.
"Once you get involved ... it is gratifying to know that you're actually able to improve your community.
"When I look around Moyne and reflect back on what we've got now compared to what we had 12 years ago I'm very proud of what I've achieved."
Cobden's Jo Beard was 33 with two small children when she was first elected to Corangamite Council.
At the time she said she didn't think she knew enough or had the right skill set to sit on local government.
"I didn't think I was capable," she said.
"At that time it was all older men who were retired and could give that time."
Since being elected in 2011 Cr Beard has served as mayor for three terms and she will stand in the elections next month.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly episode The Booletin and Beyond:
"You're not meant to know everything," she said.
She said having a diversity of voices at the council table meant there were different life experiences and people who thought about issues differently.
Former Warrnambool City Council mayor Jacinta Ermacora said for there to be more women on councils there needed to be more visibility of women's leadership.
"If you don't see women leaders, young girls don't aspire to do that," she said.
"And that feeds into that argument around merit, people used to say and some still do, that the men are there on merit and you wouldn't want to tamper with that. In actual fact the evidence shows from school and university results that women and men are about the same in terms of capabilities so then we have to question ourselves about the culture and the attitudes."
According to Women's Health Barwon South West chief executive officer Emma Mahony diverse governance and leadership often equalled better leadership.
"It equals better business in your bottom line... but it also equals better governance and good decision making," she said.
"We need more of the diversity in our community reflected at the council table."
Ms Mahony said historically research into recruitment showed men might not meet the criteria for a job but were confident they could fulfill the role.
"A lot of women won't see themselves with the skills and qualifications to do the job and there is a really strong philosophy that you've got to see what you can be," she said.
It's 100 years since Victoria's first female councillor, Mary Rogers, was elected to Richmond City Council and Ms Mahony said the milestone was worth celebrating despite more needing to be achieved.
"We can have women at the table and through that we can talk about and make some of the change we need, because men are missing out too. They're missing out on being the carer they would like to be.
"These rigid and narrow ideas about how women and men should behave isn't serving men either."
Corangamite councillor Ruth Gstrein had two primary school-aged children when she was first elected in 2002
"From our point of view it's not so much about having more women it's about having diversity around the table," she said.
"A lot of my time on council has been very male dominated and it's only this term that it's turned, that we went from 2-5 to 5-2 which was fine.
"You really want an equal balance of genders on council, and genders and ages and life experiences is really important."
Cr Gstrein will stand again in the October elections and said although it was daunting she was glad she had put her hand up 18 years ago
She said when she was mayor her daughter Lucy would attend meetings with government ministers.
"From that point of view the experience that she had has been very positive for her, she was very comfortable with adult company and she used to come and hang out with me," she said.
"You get an awful lot of positive feedback and a lot of satisfying moments when you can achieve a project for your community by working with them. It's all a team effort. If you're interested in having a go, absolutely put your hand up."
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.