To provide resources and support to women holding county office, the New York State Association of Counties is launching a Women’s Leadership Council. One key goal is to foster mentoring relationships among women members.
The New York State Association of Counties has established the first statewide program focused on supporting women in county government: the Women’s Leadership Council. Its goals include providing resources for women holding county office, supporting female county officials, and engaging women in seeking leadership positions in their communities and within NYSAC.
“Women make up 23 percent of government roles at the state and local levels,” and the percentage is even lower at the county level, said NYSAC Communication Coordinator Nicole Correia. Women represent 25 percent of the association’s membership, and they expressed interest in more resources and opportunities to come together, she said.
The Women’s Leadership Council builds on NYSAC’s existing series of workshops and training for women in government. A couple of years ago at a conference, NYSAC held its first workshop focused on women’s leadership. “People stood up and said, ‘We want more of this,’” Correia said. “The response was so enthusiastic that we began holding these workshops at each conference.”
NYSAC also conducted a member survey to determine what resources members needed. After member feedback showed that women members wanted help finding mentors, conference workshops were lengthened and became more focused on mentoring. Women members are “looking to connect and help foster relationships,” Correia said.
NYSAC has been around for 75 years, and its primary focus has always been on education, Correia explained. Now, the leadership council will help the association offer these resources through the lens of what its women members want—acknowledging the ways their needs might differ from those of their male counterparts. The council “is member-driven and staff-supported,” Correia said.
For women who are currently serving in county government and women who are interested in pursuing county leadership, the Women’s Leadership Council plans to provide panels, forums, and networking events at conferences; workshops at training events; opportunities to speak with women in county government; articles in the association’s magazine; an online resource center; and webinars.
The council will be officially launched at NYSAC’s fall conference. Initially, the council will focus on ways to support members, but Correia noted that future efforts will include encouraging more women to run for office.
To increase the number of women in office, resources to support women in local government or considering a run for local office are critical, NYSAC says. Diversity in public office leads to public policy that benefits citizens—and represents the communities the officials serve, the association has stated.
The council’s launch coincides with the 100th anniversary of New York State signing women’s suffrage into law—three years before the 19th Amendment was ratified and granted women the right to vote across the United States.