Inspiring stories and friendly social get-togethers marked International Women’s Day (IWD) in the Upper Hunter Shire, our part in a global event that this year had the theme ‘Pledge for Parity’.
After successful IWD events in Murrurundi and Merriwa, it was Scone’s turn last night with 45 people attending a presentation on Women in Leadership at Council Chambers hosted by Council and the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
Upper Hunter Shire Councillors Deirdre Peebles, Lorna Driscoll and Lee Watts shared their insights into the rewards and challenges of serving in local government.
Introducing the Shire’s three female councillors, Council’s Community Services Manager Kerri Cone said she hoped others might be inspired to get involved in local government.
“Our International Women’s Day event is focused on gender parity in local government,” Mrs Cone said.
“Women in elected positions in local government is around 27 per cent and only around 5 per cent of chief executive officer positions are occupied by women. These percentages have not changed much over 20 years.
“I encourage you to consider the many ways that women contribute to our community and the possibilities that local government might be something you would enjoy.”
Cr Driscoll in September will mark 25 years
in local government. She told the IWD audience about being elected on her second
try in 1987, and when in 1989 the Council had a majority of women.
“The Daily Telegraph came up to Scone to interview us and asked me what my husband thought about my being elected,” Cr Driscoll said.
“I told them he said now I was ‘not only his boss at home but also at work’.”
Asked what advice she would give other women interested in local government Cr Driscoll said. “Think your own mind and take the path for what you do. You have rewards but sometimes you have disappointments but I have enjoyed my 25 years on Council and enjoyed being there for my community.”
Cr Peebles said her interest in leadership began with her parents, becoming a mum and getting involved in groups, nursing, 35 years as a school bus driver and her husband being a councillor.
“I feel I was very much a support person then. Behind every man has stood a good woman,” Cr Peebles said.
“As time has gone on we see much more gender equality in business, politics and all aspects of life. Jockeys and astronauts come to my mind as something we have seen in recent years. Can women ‘Have it All?”. Yes with a caring nature and ability to be flexible, yes most definitely.
“Ageing is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
Cr Peebles encouraged the audience to “Make every day IWD. Do your bit to ensure the future for girls is safe, equal and rewarding. “
Cr Watts who was first elected to Council in 2005 said it was a big step forward that women are increasingly competing for roles across all areas of local government.
“It was not that long ago that local government was a male dominated working environment,” Cr Watts said.
“Sure, some roles can still present challenges but more often than not they simply highlight the unique qualities and points of difference that women bring to the workplace.”
Cr Watts said there was many benefits to working in local government.
“For me the benefits are to be able to speak and advocate on behalf of the person that isn't confident enough to put forward their ideas or objections, and secondly to assist in providing facilities and services that our community needs.
“We are surrounded by women who inspire and empower; others who blaze trails and subtly demonstrate that the male way is not the only way and the male way is not always the right way,” Cr Watts said.
“Women are unique. We bring to our work, families and communities both strength and femininity. We can lead whilst being compassionate. We can empathise and sympathise. In essence, we continue to prove that we can do anything that we challenge ourselves to do.”
Merriwa celebrated International Women’s Day with 40 people who enjoyed lunch and heard guest speaker, solicitor Jane Watson from Scone explain about Powers of Attorney and preparing a will. The event was hosted by the Merriwa Country Women’s Association (CWA) in partnership with Council.
MurrurundiMore than 50 women attended the Murrurundi dinner to celebrate International Women’s Day including speeches and music by Ruth Neave.
Upper Hunter Shire Council is a local government authority and provides an extensive array of services including health and building; town planning; aged care; sporting and recreational facilities; roads; libraries; garbage collection; airport facilities; saleyards; public venues; water; children, youth and families and tourist information.