Women play a vital role in the workplace. But did you know that “Women only make up 23 percent of government roles at the state and local level“? Through an ongoing series of podcasts, Governing reporter Mattie Quinn takes on this important task of finding out who these women are, what leadership means to them, and the difference they are making in their communities.
In 1887, Susanna Medora Salter becomes the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas. This “Famous First” was a major milestone for women in government and paved the way for many women thereafter. In Quinn’s first podcast, she interviews Mayor Freeman-Wilson of Gary, IN who actually prefers to go by the name “Mayor Karen”.
Just by listening to the podcast, I had the sense this Mayor is the kind of woman that people really admire. What drives her is the desire to bring in support and funding to build programs that help all citizens of Gary. She goes on to talk about an initiative to tie public safety and light illumination efforts together for community restoration. “When we pay particular attention to the environment then it changes the incidents of crime because people feel better about where they live.”
As the interview wraps up, the topic turns towards why the need for more women in government. Freeman-Wilson talks candidly about the natural skills and strengths women possess like being problem solvers, ability to multi-task, and always looking for the “win-win”. “It’s not about who I am, but it’s really about how do I contribute… how do I help… how can I improve my community.”
As young women begin thinking about their careers, it’s important to know that a role in government, regardless of the level, is a viable option. Making a difference in your community is one of them most rewarding jobs you can do.
I recently attended Governing’s Outlook in the States & Localities Conference in D.C. to continue my own education on the public workforce and how it’s impacted by current events. I would equate the abundance of info to watching the news of the past year in fast-forward. It is quite overwhelming. But every year I come back to this event because its where you’ll find the best info.
I was disheartened, but not shocked, to hear 2016 will even further stretch resources including the work done by our public servants as in years past. As the topic of labor was danced around, but not quite addressed, the mere mention of rising costs of healthcare (2016 HHS spend in state & local government to increase 5-6%) and pensions (currently a $1T shortfall in state & local government) will no doubt keep hiring at low levels. And by low levels, they mean from as far back as 2009. According to Governing, local governments have fared the worst with this steady decline in employment.
A shortage of employees at any organization hurts. Yet in government it has an added sting, because the people who really suffer are those who need it most. As long as programs can’t be run due to a lack of resources, and there are citizens who rely on these services, it will continue to create a negative effect on society. Scrutiny around operational inefficiencies within government will continue to grow and could even cause some distrust.
Let’s make 2016 the year we take a deeper look at costs, including labor, and find ways to bring some of our programs back.
At the recent NASPE Conf in Nashville, I witnessed the kind of best practice sharing that can only really happen in the Public Sector. Private Sector companies are so fiercely competitive that they miss out on learning from each other. But in Public Sector, in this case State Government, they just have to turn to their neighboring state and say “here’s how we do it”. NASPE (National Association of State Personnel Executives) is an organization dedicated to State Government Human Resource leaders who come together so they don’t have to go at new initiatives alone. They acquire knowledge from each other, because who really wants to reinvent the wheel? I’ll share some examples:
- Succession Planning – Trish Holliday, Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Commissioner, State of Tennessee, walked the NASPE audience through the strategy Tennessee is implementing to make it through the “silver tsunami”. Read her article, Success(ion) Planning: The Learning Community Circle of Life in HR Professionals Magazine.
- Onboarding – Jim Honchar, Deputy Secretary of Human Resources and Management, Governors Office of Administration, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, recently shared the states’ move to creating a more simplified process for new hires. Read Governing Magazine’s article, How Pennsylvania Is Helping New Hires Get to Work Faster for the a detailed description.
All you have do is look at the agenda to know this is the kind of meeting that makes you want to go back to the office and implement change. Oh, and did I mention it’s a small, intimate group so everyone has an opportunity to get to know each other. It’s inspiring to hear how Human Resources sees their department as leaders in transformation. They know the impact they have on the employees in turn has a direct impact on citizens within their state. More importantly, though, they learn from their neighbors’ triumphs and mistakes.
A recent blog from former Deputy Mayor of Bloomington, IN, Maria Katrien Heslin, produced some interesting terminology that I hadn’t quite heard before.
“Muniversity” – This is a “place” municipal employees can go to learn more about the city they work for.
“Communicity” – An online community for municipal employees to learn more about city projects, etc…
Regardless of new or old terminology, the theme she encourages other municipalities to embrace is more communication and sharing with public employees so they are empowered to serve the community better. Read the full blog at Governing.com.