Do you need to have all the boxes checked in order to promote?
The answer is easy, no, you do not.
Last month, I wrapped up my Master of Public Administration degree and in my studies I approached the topic of diversity in local government, and more specifically, how to inspire women to take on leadership positions in government. What I found out was interesting…
You may already be aware that women comprise over half of the United States population, but what you may not know is that, according to ICMA, “by 2006, women earned 59 percent of MPA degrees while the proportion of men had declined to just more than 40 percent.” So if women make up more than half of the population and are earning more MPA degrees than men, why isn’t local, or federal government for that matter, representative of this part of the population in leadership positions?
After researching this topic to death, and spending multiple all-nighters chugging coffee, I finally found a reason that made sense. It’s not that women don’t want to take on leadership positions in government, it’s that they believe that before they can promote they must have all the boxes checked. This differs with men, who tend to apply for a position when they have a little over half of the boxes checked. I know, it may sound silly, but I can definitely relate to this. I have stopped myself from applying for many jobs because, after reading the job description, I thought that I didn’t meet all of the standards that the position was asking for. But the thing is, you don’t have to meet all of the standards, you just have to be willing to learn.
I have read this over and over, and believe wholeheartedly, that government leadership should be representative of the people with whom they serve. It is because of this that I think that government’s should be taking the necessary steps to achieve diversity and to encourage the growth and development of ALL staff members. Now, whether you achieve this through the establishment of a mentor program (inside or outside your organization), coaching, or by encouraging your employees to pursue further education or training, is up to you, but sometimes it helps to give your employees a little push and remind them that you are an advocate for their career development. Who knows, that little push could lead your employees on the path to the next presidency.
What are your thoughts?
As we began looking at last week, according to Gallup’s State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report, there are 5 characteristics of a great manager:
Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.” Gallup’s definition of a manager is “someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives.
Statistically – and logically – engaged managers have more engaged employees. If you’ll recall from a previous blog on employee engagement, ultimately, female Baby Boomer managers with high school diplomas who live in Montana, in their first six months of work have the highest engagement in America! Furthermore, female employees working for female managers have the highest overall engagement (35%), while male employees who work for male managers have the lowest engagement (25%). Again, women are more engaged at work, and women are more engaged when they work for women!
Now, this is not a post about feminism or leaning in or girl power, but we do have to ask ourselves: if we desire employee engagement, which we all do, for many reasons, and it is proven that women managers cause greater engagement, why is there only 13% of women in top leadership roles in local government, the same percentage for 30 years!? Yes, you heard that correctly. The same percentage – 13 percent – of females in top local government leadership roles has not changed in 30 years.
We have an opportunity here. I’m not suggesting “reverse discrimination” by saying we should select more females than males just to change this number. According to the report that claims the 13 percent issue, there are larger pools of female talent in mid-level management positions to develop and select from (yet still far fewer than males). So I implore you to take a look at your applicant pool better the next time you’re hiring or promoting a manager. Are we passing by a great opportunity to blow the roof off our organizations’ engagement by passing by females for leadership roles? If so, why? Is there a cultural bias toward having males as managers? Perhaps. Is there some other reason that we don’t see more women step up and not even get considered for the top leadership roles? Why are women less prevalent in leadership if they are statistically more effective?
The issue was recently brought to light by an article in ICMA’s PM Magazine and is being explored in an ongoing series of blogs by the Emerging Local Government Leaders network in their #13percent initiative, which looks at how we can actually cause change in the unfortunate low percentages. Remember, women managers have greater engagement, so having fewer of them won’t fix the engagement problem.
I’ve had the benefit of working for four incredible female managers so far in my local government career. I’ve worked for more managers, but these four women were all exactly what I needed them to be so that I could grow, learn, and thrive in my position and career. These four did not hold the top positions in our organizations, but they could very well have. They motivated me, they built trusting and authentic relationships with me, they lived according to their own expectations and held our team accountable, and they were bold and guided our team through adversity, to success. Cindy, Kelly, Debi, and Krisa – thank you.