Lack of females within Coffs Council highlighted in new report

Coffs Harbour City councillor Sally Townley has called out Coffs Harbour City Council on its inability to improve gender inequity within Council, with males still dominating the Council workforce. Photo: Coffs Harbour City Council.


IN light of International Women’s Day and protests around the world against inequality and injustice against women, Coffs Harbour City councillor Sally Townley has criticised the lack of gender equity within Coffs Harbour City Council.

Cr Townley raised the issue while councillors were debating Council’s performance when benchmarked against 87 other councils in Australia and New Zealand in the Australasian Local Government Performance Excellence Program Report for the 2019-2020 financial year.

The participating councils included 50 from NSW, six from New Zealand, ten from South Australia and 21 from Western Australia.

The program measures and provides Council’s strategic and operational insights into workforce, finance, operations, service delivery, corporate leadership and asset management.

The results of the annual Performance Excellence Report inform areas of focus for improvement initiatives for Council in the future.

The report detailed that only 34% of Coffs Harbour City Council’s employees were women, and only 20% of Council’s employees at Manager level and above are women.

There are no female Council CEOs, no female Council Directors, 27% of women are employed at Manager level, 38% are employed at Team Leader level, 45% are employed at Supervisor level, and females make up 33% of other staff roles.

The gender split by service area saw 3% of women employed in Coffs Harbour City Council’s Roads & Bridges service area, 13% of females employed in Parks and gardens, 5% employed in Sewerage Services, 6% employed in Water supplies, 38% employed in Town Planning, and 63% employed in Governance and Administration.

The proportion of women employed across all the councils surveyed came in at 44%, compared to Coffs Harbour City Council’s 34% of female employees.

A Council report on the Australasian Local Government Performance Excellence Program Report justified the gender imbalance by stating “this result (and the overall workforce gender balance) is significantly influenced by the proportion of services/functions delivered by CHCC that tend to attract male candidates”.

“Specifically, this includes including civil construction and water/sewer activities which represent around 40% of the CHCC workforce,” the Council report stated.

Cr Sally Townley said at Council’s ordinary meeting on Thursday 11 March that the report results felt a bit like “groundhog day”.

“It kind of feels a little bit like groundhog day in some ways because there’s really important areas where we just seem to really be failing to make any headway, and one of those is in gender equity,” Cr Townley stated.

“We’re not only not seeing an increase in female staff at upper levels, but even closing the gap towards gender equity towards parity at all levels of staff we just don’t seem to be shifting those figures after five years.

“In other jurisdictions, for example New Zealand, they’re much much closer in all levels of local government staffing to attaining something close to gender equity.”

The Council report on the Australasian Local Government Performance Excellence Program Report stated, “CHCC’s commitment to gender equity and diversity is ongoing and in seeking to improve our results even further, a revised Diversity and Inclusion Management Plan, incorporating the Equal Employment Opportunity Management Plan, will be prepared as part of an updated Workforce Management Plan for the 2021/22 Integrated Planning and Reporting cycle”.



One thought on “Lack of females within Coffs Council highlighted in new report

  1. Yes, the time is upon us that we ought to accept the negative consequences of gender inequity in any organisation. Having said that, I can also appreciate how some may rely upon the argument that all organisations should only ever be meritocracies (the best ‘person’ for the job, regardless of sex, age or any other factor). It is only after researching and speaking to others that ones adhereance to the ideal of a meritocracy can be effectively challenged. By way of very recent personal example, without going into any unnecessary detail, I am a member of a volunteer organisation, where I was asked if I might step up to a more senior position. I slept on the offer and decided I would agree. That position was then put to the inner circle of the organisation by email. The response from a couple of the female members was that they were vehemently against the idea – not (as they say) based on my competence but based purely on the fact that I am a male, and the top end was already male heavy. I have only had a few days to digest this expression of ‘affirmative action’ and I am still in the process of understanding it. You see, I fundamentally believed in the concept of promoting the best candidate for the job? Not whether that person fits some ideal that will allow the organisation to appear better, more balanced, etc. But then I research more, and I discover that the underlying psychology behind such an ideology is one where equity in representation should result in equity of opinion – and equitable opinion results in better outcomes. Is this necessarily true? I don’t know – but at least I understand the principle behind the argument.

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