City of Greater Bendigo councillors to consider developing gender equity strategy

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The City of Greater Bendigo has flagged its intention to develop a strategy to boost gender equity both within the organisation and in the wider community.

Councillors will be asked to support the development of a strategy at next week’s ordinary meeting.

A report prepared by City of Greater Bendigo health and wellbeing director Vicky Mason said organisations with high levels of gender equity outperformed those that did not.

“Increasing the proportion of women in leadership roles is associated with better financial performance and gender equity promotes an environment where innovation can flourish,” the report said.

The report notes that while at the end of 2016, 58 per cent of council employees were female, women were more often found in casual and part-time roles, and underrepresented in senior positions.

“At 31 December 2016, the City employed 16 per cent more females than males, however males outranked females at Band 8 level, a situation that has worsened since the restructure,” the report said.

It said the council was well-placed to play a role in promoting gender equity in the wider community through its many and varied roles in planning, providing facilities and public spaces, service delivery and partnerships.

The report also notes that the council, through its 2017-2021 Community Plan, wants to create the world’s most liveable city.

“Gender equity is an important contributor to liveability and achieving this vision,” the report said.

The idea is that the strategy, if it goes ahead, will identify initiatives that will boost gender equity across the entire community.

It will aim to prevent gender inequality before it occurs, address the factors that lead to inequality by taking into account the settings in which these are shaped, and foster social structures, norms and practices that will inhibit gender inequality.

The report said the strategy would be developed with partner organisations with a shared commitment to improving gender equity.

Councillor Yvonne Wrigglesworth has been nominated to participate in an internal working group.

Gender equity in Bendigo

Disparities still exist between the experience of men and women in Bendigo.

According to the Victorian Women’s Health Atlas, half of women in the area earned below the minimum weekly wage in 2011, compared to a third of men.

When it came to women in positions of power, the atlas reports that only 22.4 per cent of people who held a position as a chief executive officer, general manager or legislator were women.

A 2015 report commissioned by Women’s Health Loddon Mallee revealed women across the region were underrepresented in leadership positions, and were more likely to be elected chairwoman or mayor than CEO of an organisation.

But it is not only in the workplace that women are likely to feel disadvantage.

A 2011 survey found just 57 per cent of women felt safe walking alone at night in Bendigo, compared to 95 per cent of men. Women are also disproportionately the victims of sexual offences, and more women experience psychological distress than men.

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