Moyne Shire councillor Karen Foster has spoken out about her plans to drive female leadership as the council submitted a new gender equality plan for its 350 staff.
The shire's new Gender Equality Action Plan - which it was required to develop and submit to the state government by the end of March under the Local Government Act 2020 - is designed to balance out the representation of women within the council workforce.
More than half of Moyne Shire's staff are women, yet three quarters of the female workforce is in part time or casual roles. Meanwhile, the most senior positions are male dominated, with 16 out of the 24-person executive leadership team being men.
Cr Foster said as the lone woman out of seven councillors she felt a strong responsibility to lead a change in culture.
"I really do see myself having a role to play," she said.
"I wanted to understand the role of a councillor before deciding on that role, but now that I'm a year into the job I feel have I that understanding and I'm keen to do some work into gender equity."
Cr Foster said the council action plan was a great place to start. The plan can't be publicly released until it is signed off by the Victorian Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams, but Cr Foster explained some of its important points.
"It really applies a gender lens to workforce management," she said.
"It prompts the shire to be more cognisant of working conditions for staff; things like where or how they work. This can be so important for women looking after young children for example."
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Cr Foster said the plan also sought better gender balance across different employment types, which still follow stereotypical patterns. Women greatly outnumber men in clerical positions, while men dominate 10-to-one in construction roles.
The idea of setting gender quotas has been a controversial topic at all levels of government and private industry, and Cr Foster said the plan didn't include anything so rigid
"There are no fixed targets. It's not an affirmative action plan in that respect. It's more about building a framework that creates a supportive environment for women," she said.
"It's a workforce action plan for the shire, so it doesn't apply outside of council workforce, but I hope it inspires other organisations to adopt similar aims."
One of her hopes for the plan is that it will "mean more women are supported into leadership positions in the shire".
As a prominent local figure and successful businesswoman, this is where Cr Foster sees herself playing a key role.
"I really want to use my term to engage as many people as I can in local government, but also inspire local women into leadership roles, especially encouraging young women into those roles," she said.
"We can correct many, many generations of women not having equal opportunity."
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