Mary Jacobs began the high-energy Luncheon for Women in Local Government Management, sponsored by ICMA-RC, with a wonderful quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” In the case of this gathering of accomplished women professionals in local government management, I don’t think it takes a crisis to recognize a room full of enthusiasm, strength, and camaraderie.
Each of four panelists told stories that encapsulated their work and life experiences, and each offered lessons learned. In Joan McCallen’s experience, it wasn’t unusual to hear “we don’t hire women” and even, “we already have one”! McCallen’s lessons:
Believe in yourself.
Be a role model because nothing gets recognized like good hard work.
Majority rules in a democracy, so if you want something to change, get more people on your side, including crossing the gender divide.
Tamara Letourneau’s passion for the profession began at age 18. In her current situation she’s able to serve many communities at one time while also balancing a rich personal life that includes having adopted two girls. Letourneau advises:
Follow your dreams no matter what.
Don’t apologize for the decisions you make, including not apologizing for the passion you
put into your career.
Kimiko Capri Black Gilmore has spent her career in jobs that are about helping people, and realizing that she can reach the most people and have the most impact in the office of the city manager. So despite turmoil in the office of the city manager, Gilmore chose to stick it out. Gilmore’s lessons include
Let people know you’re in the room.
Be prepared to speak up for yourself; if you don’t, you won’t be able to achieve the impact
you’re striving for.
Regularly get together with a group of women who support each other; it keeps you strong.
Some other take-aways:
Being young and pretty is good. Being young, pretty, and smart is even better.
When you receive a flippant comment, don’t flip it back.
Be who you are; don’t conform.
How can you expect others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.
Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to set your sights high.
Thank those who support you, and lean on your faith as well.
Mary Jacobs, assistant city manager, Sierra Vista, AZ, moderated the discussion. The panelists were
Joan McCallen, president and CEO, ICMA-RC, Washington, DC
Tamara Letourneau, senior manager, Management Partners, Inc., Yorba Linda, CA
Kimiko Capri Black Gilmore, assistant city manager, Kansas City, MO
Joyce Wilson, city manager, El Paso, TX.