By Michael Giles
SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has appointed its first-ever female CEO.
And it’s likely Kerryn Ellis is the first female administrative leader of local government in this area for nigh on 150 years.
So, yes, it’s a outcome worth mentioning.
She joins two other female local government CEOs in Gippsland, Ali Wastie at Bass Coast and Alison Leighton at Baw Baw, so in that sense, this region is ahead of the pack.
Which is just the point that the National Party Member for Lowan in the Western District, Emma Kealy, was making when she addressed the new Gender Equality Bill as it went through State Parliament last Thursday.
The MP welcomed the spirit of the legislation but warned the devil could be in the detail and in its implementation.
“In relation to school councils, I think there are also very, very small local government councils who will also find it quite difficult to meet some of those requirements. That is not through any reason of systemic sexism or gender bias; it is simply because it is extraordinarily difficult to recruit to some of these positions, particularly in rural and regional Victoria. If you get one applicant who has got all the skills and qualifications you need, you do not really care what gender they are or what colour they are or what their religious beliefs are or what their physical abilities or their mental abilities are; you just want somebody in the job.”
We are all well aware that women are under-represented in the boardrooms of most companies and their wages still lag behind those paid to men, often doing the same work, so there’s certainly a case for being pro-active in encouraging women to apply for these roles and to stand for election as well.
But how far should you go in ignoring a better qualified person on the basis of gender?
Shareholders have a right to expect the best appointments for roles in their companies regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or disability.
And ratepayers don’t want to see service delivery or infrastructure improvement compromised by some bureaucrat using other people’s money to achieve an arbitrary gender balance figure.
Sure encourage women to apply but the best candidate must always be selected.
Ms Kealy also raised questions about what targets and quotas for gender equality in the workplace would look like and how data would be collected given privacy constraints.
Take a look at the Gender Equality Bill 2009 and tell us what you think about it.