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Top 50 Public Sector Women reaching the top of their field

3 months ago by Clare McCartin

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When we launched the Top 50 Public Sector (Victoria) list three years ago, it was done so with the hope it would raise awareness of successful women and act as an inspiration for younger ones coming through the ranks.

What we could not have anticipated was that it would become quite the alumna that it is today with a staggering 16 of the women appearing on the 2017 and 2018 lists going on to secure CEO or equivalent roles within the State’s public sector.

Davidson worked with IPAA Victoria to launch the inaugural list in 2017 and this year, IPAA took over the stewardship of the Victorian event from Davidson which continues to grow from strength to strength.

The objective of launching the Top 50 Public Sector Women List – which was expanded in 2018 to include a NSW Top 50 list - was to do what we could to address the disparity in the numbers of women in senior leadership roles in all levels of government in Australia.

Rebecca McKenzie, CEO with the City of Glen Eira, was named on the 2018 Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) list and said initiatives such as the Top 50 and which hold up women who have paved the way, serve as important role models for aspiring young female professionals.

“The thing I have learned over the past few years is that there are so many talented women in the sector, it’s just about providing the reassurance and the encouragement for them to make the big step to put themselves forward,” Ms McKenzie said.

“I feel very strongly that our own legacy as female leaders is to do that for our colleagues, and in doing so start to change the tone of our sector in a way that ensures that the environmental conditions are there for them to enjoy the role, and to be at their best.”

CEO of Cardinia Shire Council, Carol Jeffs, was named on the inaugural Top 50 Public Sector (Victoria) list in 2017 when she was working as the General Manager Community Development with the City of Port Phillip before taking on her current role in October 2018.

“The recent appointment of several women local government CEOs and the LGPro CEO has given me reason to reflect,” Ms Jeffs said. “I am absolutely certain that I would not be here today [in her CEO role] if not for the Top 50 initiative. I am extraordinarily grateful for that.

“I now have a new definition of what remarkable leadership is - it is the organisers of the Top 50 Public Sector Women event working together to change the recruitment and networking landscape. I absolutely aspire to making game changing contributions such as this throughout my career going forward.”

Joining the Top 50 alumna in 2018, Tracey Slatter, Managing Director at Barwon Water (who held the role of CEO at the City of Port Phillip Council for almost four years), says the event is important recognition and support for those working in leadership across all levels of government.

“I am really pleased to see there are now 18 women in LG CEO roles which is a high point but there is a lot further to go,” Ms Slatter said. “It is also critical more be done to have more women on councils.

“I was reflecting the other day about women who I looked to as role models early in my career. While I was mostly in my 20s, I was lucky enough to work with some incredible women.

“And it really made a difference to me to see successful women in executive leadership positions; it is a reminder to me to reach out to more junior women and provide encouragement and opportunities to them. The Top 50 list has been a game changer.”

There is more work to be done to ensure we achieve equality in leadership for women working in the Public Sector, but the example of the alumna is serving to encourage women and helping them to strive for their professional dreams.

Current CEO and equivalent Top 50 Public Sector Alumna

From 2017:


From 2018:


Clare McCartin, Senior Partner, Davidson Executive & Boards