Danielle Farah and the GPAN Youth Action Group
Dear Cr Joseph Haweil and team,
My name is Danielle Farah and I am writing on behalf of the Good People Act Now (GPAN) Project from Banksia Gardens Community Services (BGCS), to bring your awareness towards the lack of female representation and diversity within Hume City Council’s leadership team. The GPAN Project’s key focus is preventing violence against women in Hume by addressing its major driver, gender inequality. The following proposal comes from the perspective of a lifelong Hume local and young female, with my own experiences with gender inequality whilst living, working and studying in the community and also from the young people of the GPAN project who are striving for a more equitable community.
High-level leadership continues to see women being marginalised and underrepresented at all levels, with the Victorian Government reporting in 2018 that only 34 per cent of the 277 director positions in local government were held by women. Our very own council reflects such a poor statistic with the current organisational structure of Hume City Council containing just one female in the six leadership roles. The Director of Communications, Engagement and Advocacy, Roslyn Wai, is the only woman amongst a team of men. Crucial planning and decisions surrounding maternal and child healthcare, learning programs, youth services, local laws, finances, and other aspects of the community are all led by male representatives. One woman in six is unacceptable and pushes us further from gender parity.
It is of the utmost importance that the youth of Hume view women in leadership positions. While many girls and young women are studying and completing degrees to fulfil future career goals, they often undervalue theirskills when applying for jobs within an organisation. By pushing for gender parity within all levels of the council, we are empowering the female youth in our community and encouraging women to envision themselves in more senior positions. Young women will use female executives as an example and realise their full potential. It is important to consider these points, as gender equality inside and outside of a workforce cannot be achieved unless a gender lens is adopted throughout all aspects of a community. Hume City Council is uniquely positioned to influence residents and other local organisations to follow suit.
A common misconception surrounding female leadership issues is that fewer women are applying for the position or fewer women are equipped to fulfil the role. This is simply not 2 true. Barriers to leadership exist before a woman enters the workforce. Gender stereotypes, roles and behaviours expected of girls and women within society shape the lives of females from a very young age. Women are taught that society values them for being quiet, polite, domesticated and caring. Not to mention the structural inequalities that exist once women enter the workforce, such as those that see women more likely to be the primary carer for children. It may seem like there is little you can do within your organisational structure to breakdown such an engrained societal barrier. However, the Hume City Council can start by creating opportunities and developing pathways for women that lead to executive positions and implementing structures that prevent this gender gap from existing. Women are equally as capable as men in directing areas within the council. With only a few women in Hume’s leadership roles, our council is missing out on the many benefits a female’s perspective will offer.
The Hume City Council Plan (2017-2021) outlines five key themes and strategic objectives, however, it fails to mention any current or future plans for gender equity in the community. We hope to see this change immediately. As a member of the Building a Respectful Community (BRC) Partnership, your organisation is required to take action towards creating a more gender-equitable environment for the city of Hume. The first goal of the partnership actions is to ensure workplaces are safe, gender-equitable and inclusive, where organisations including Hume City Council should aim to increase the proportion of women in leadership positions. Senior leadership in the council does not comply with these standards, and instead, we still see a lack of gender parity. It is your responsibility as a partner of the BRC and as a local council to be a leader for positive change in our community.
Alongside this gender equity cause, the council does not reflect the diversity of Hume, with a lack of varying cultures and ethnic backgrounds within the leadership group. The community consists of residents from 156 different countries and over 150 different languages spoken. A great amount of knowledge from many viewpoints can broaden the perspective of the council, plus create an inclusive environment. Like female representation, residents viewing a diverse executive team in their council can be more inclined to support the objectives and plans set. Stated in the council’s plan is the aim for a culturally vibrant and connected community, however, it is difficult to achieve such an objective when those leading the community do not come from differing cultures. All parties will reap the benefits of a culturally inclusive and gender-equitable team of representatives. The council will be promoting inclusivity throughout the whole community and empowering the next generation of Hume leaders no matter their gender, race or cultural background.
On behalf of BGCS and the local community, the GPAN Project challenges you, the leaders of the Hume City Council, to address issues relating to gender inequality within the organisation and also to become a leader for change in this important work across Hume. Gender equity is one of BGCS’ five key strategic priority areas over the next five years, ensuring that the organisation’s policies, procedures and practices incorporate a gender equity lens. This has resulted in 43 organisational policies being revised with a gender lens, the creation of gender equity and family violence policies, training for staff and many more key achievements led by 3 the Gender Equity Working Group. This group is overseen by Chair of the BGCS Board, Carole Fabian, CEO, Gina Dougall and Gender Equity Coordinator, Georgia Ransome.
The focus of the GPAN Project is to create a gender equitable community and to prevent violence against women in Hume. This work is supported by Banksia Gardens Community Services and many other partner organisations, including Hume City Council. Jarrod Smith, Elizabeth Johnston and Vanessa Petridis represent the council as members of GPAN’s Steering Committee. We would like to see more commitment from the Hume City Council to creating a gender-equitable community.
Danielle Farah and the 2020 Good People Act Now Youth Action Group; Abbey Masters, Alixandra Colafella, Aria Nanai, Bodhi Sweeny, Bree Dodd, Chloe Arnold, Christopher Arnold, Emily Sporik, Georgia Ransome, James Drake, Louise D’Amico, Monica Carbone, Natalie Cook, Nateisha Russell, Renee Leader, Thanchanok Thatsanat and Ujjeshaa Sharma
This letter was written by Hume local and GPAN placement student, Danielle Farah. The letter was sent on 10 December 2020 to all Hume City Councillors.
Subsequently, GPAN has met with the Mayor of Hume, Cr Joseph Haweil, who has demonstrated his support for GPAN's mission and is committed to addressing gender inequality in Hume.