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While the council of Wagga Wagga may not be as big as its fellow New South Whales councils, its attitude towards gender equality is certainly forward-thinking. Over the years, they have strived to achieve an equal representation of men and women in senior management positions and even established an official gender equality policy in 2011. The Wagga Council acknowledged that achieving higher levels of gender equality wasn’t just a recruitment issue, but involved supporting and mentoring women within the corporate environment, so they could move to senior positions. Consequently it developed a ‘Women as Leaders Program’ in order to support and help it’s female workers grow their skills, confidence and ultimately their career. The program has been extremely successful over the last few years, and on April 9th the Wagga Wagga City council held their first ‘female leaders’ alumni event, in order to celebrate the achievements it’s participants have made since doing the program.

The alumni event included a session with  VM Learning’s own Julie Verner-Mackay, who has facilitated many of Wagga Council’s ‘Women as Leaders’ programs in recent years and has had extensive experience as a learning and development trainer. Julie herself said she was so pleased with not only the tangible changes she saw in some participants, such as their promotions to management positions, but also the intangible changes.
“All the women have such emotional maturity now and an inner confidence about themselves and what they’re capable of, which is great to see” she said.

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The focus of the alumni event however, was not only to celebrate change but also for each participant to re-evaluate their current state both personally and professionally and identify goals for the future. This session was guided by Julie, who facilitated a time-line activity so that each participant could visually trace their journey and make future plans.

The participants were then able to hear from guest speaker Janice Summerhayes, the director of environmental and community services within the Wagga Wagga City Council. Janice spoke candidly with the group about her leadership role within the council, her experiences and the importance of being able to ‘switch off’ every once in a while, in order to work as effectively as possible.
The feedback both from Janice’s talk and the event overall was extremely positive, with many of the participants saying that they had found their experiences in the Women as Leaders Program extremely worthwhile.

“I have learnt so much from the program, but I have learnt specifically to be more empathetic towards other colleagues, as you don’t know how they are feeling” (S. Jones).

“I loved the Women as Leaders Program. Jules was a totally committed facilitator and totally involved everyone”(R. Bradley).

“I don’t think I would have gained as much from the program without the guidance of Jules. She is by far the most effective facilitator that I have had the privilege of learning from” (Kelly Shearer).
After such encouraging feedback and successful results from the ‘Women as Leaders’ program , the Wagga Wagga City Council is sure to continue the program and  persevere on  its pursuit to achieve gender equality within its organisation.