#13Percent: Applying the Potential Standard

Posted on September 21, 2015

By , Finance Manager at Apex Park and Recreation District
When I first saw the research done on the 13 percent, I did not want to believe it. I have spent most of my career in state and local government and when I sat down and thought about it I had met or worked for some amazing female leaders but very few were at the deputy or city manager level. The private sector is improving their numbers but the battle has been made more public. Thank goodness for those women who endured being scrutinized more than their male counterparts (i.e. women who have their maternity leaves made very public while I never see my LinkedIn feed light up about a male CEO who has a newborn).  I am hoping the government sector starts realizing that women can lead, as well as be fine in space or handle a city council meeting while menstruating.
Being female, I feel I have faced more hurdles than my male counterparts at times.  One of the big things I
have encountered is having to always prove myself and get more experience while my male counterparts just have to have potential and be noticed.  The bar for women always seemed higher or my waiting period always seemed longer. City councils know the role of city manager is a big one and those little thoughts of bias creep into both men and women when they see a female applicant.
Can she handle the political pressure without crying or having an emotional outburst?
Can she really juggle this with two kids? What if her kid gets sick when there is a scheduled public forum?
How will the City employees feel about working for a woman, they tend to ask a lot of questions?
These biases no longer have the same culture to back them up but they are rooted deeply in the government sector. Life is different now and regardless of gender, each of us has our strengths and weaknesses. Gender roles are evolving at home and at work.
If you are giving opportunities based on potential or track record there should be an equal bar for measurement. The bar needs to be set at the same height: if it is potential, then it’s potential; if it’s experience, it is the same amount. The same questions about a woman’s ability to perform the job should be asked of a man. Every hiring committee needs to have someone in the room that stands up to point out bias or unequal standards.  I hope twenty years from now that 13% is higher, I wish it would be closer to 50%, but it will only change if our mental picture of what a city manager or chief executive is changes to one that could be either gender.

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