This is the first post in a new series on the push and pull factors that lead people into and out of local government service. We’re exploring these topics because they’re an important part of understanding why women haven’t advanced into local government CAO roles in the last 30 years.
Kim Sandoval (LinkedIn) will manage this project for ELGL. Kim is currently managing and analyzing data for a workforce development grant at a community college. She’s previously served in a volunteer capacity with several area non profits and worked in a variety of local government roles – most recently as a management analyst. This column and research series is part of ELGL’s #13Percent effort.
I’m thrilled that ICMA is examining Women Leading Government and ELGL has continued the discussion with Glacial Pace and #13Percent. These discussions and books such as Lean In have interesting and insightful points of which women should be aware. However, as I read them, I always wonder about the other side. These writings make me want to hear, and quantify, the unrepresented voices – the women that actually DID exit these roles and paths to leadership.
Admittedly, my personal bias is part of the reason I’d like to hear those missing voices. In 1984 I was 12 – the same age my oldest son is now. At that time I was already aware of non-profit organizations and in the coming years would contribute my share of service hours. So it was natural that when I started my MPA program, my focus was on non-profits. Then I started the program and was able to learn from and work with some wonderful local government professors and leaders from whom I learned about local management. When the SCCMA’s Holland Scholarship was announced, I decided to apply and look more closely at local government as a career option. Applying for, and then winning, that award changed my outlook and led to a progression of local government roles.
After six years my career was progressing well. I’d had the opportunity to work in multiple organizations and was enjoying ‘nerd heaven’ as an analyst doing work I loved, balancing young parenthood and career. Then, the reorg happened, and the short answer is at that time I chose not to continue towards a local government leadership position; I’m currently administering a grant in higher education.
If in 30 years the number of women in leadership roles has stayed at 13%, then by my calculation, we’re conservatively missing 20% more women. This is a large number and implies that maybe the answer isn’t short or simple. Perhaps the choice isn’t only door #1 or door #2.
With a goal of discovering these answers, ELGL and the Alliance for Innovation will be initiating a survey to gather information from former leaders who have LEFT local government. We are deliberately asking and requesting the people who have left our field to come in and provide some insight. We also plan to ask individuals regardless of their gender and to gather data on ethnicity, as well.
Our objective is to briefly examine both the push factors as well as the pulls that have lead women and men to exit their local government leadership careers. We hope that our findings will help reveal ways to retain and cultivate potential leadership for years to come.
If you’re reading this, we need YOUR help – We are working to finalize our instrument and methods. We ask that you reach out to your former colleagues, friends, classmates, LinkedIn connections and other contacts to see if they would assist us in this research. No names, or government entities, will be required so that information can be completely anonymous if the respondent chooses.
We hope you’ll check back with us in the coming months as we hold the door open for everyone and examine our results.