Mayor and Labor group leader Jenny Dowell.
Mayor and Labor group leader Jenny Dowell.

Feminist touch to the top jobs

WOMEN may have signed up in droves to stand at this year's Lismore City Council election, but the new 11-member council could easily again have only two women on it.

The proportion of women to men on Lismore's ballot paper has surged this year, rising to about 46% of the available candidates - compared to about 38% in 2008 and 29% in 2004.

However, only three women - Labor's Jenny Dowell, The Greens' Vanessa Ekins, and Girls in Government's Kate Olivieri - hold the first position on their respective group tickets.

A candidate's position on a group ticket decides the proportion of that group's votes they get.

Of the current crop of 11 councillors, all but three - Peter Graham, Isaac Smith, and Ray Houston - were in the first position on their ticket at the 2008 election. It was a similar story in 2004.

Cr Dowell, who has been pushing to get more women onto the council since 2004, agreed it was vital to get more women into high positions on the group tickets if the gender balance on the council was to even out.

"The only chance of getting a woman elected is to have her in position one or two," Cr Dowell said.

"In a strong group you might get one or two up."

Cr Dowell pointed out there were more women in the number two position this time around. After only one in 2008, this time there are five.

One of issue potentially reducing the number of women candidates could be the time the job requires in already busy lives.

Nancy Casson, who holds fourth place on the Team Marks ticket said she signed up to support lead (and mayoral) candidate Neil Marks.

She had a strong interest in the council but conceded she would struggle to fit being a councillor around her day job running St John Ambulance on the North Coast and her work with the Lions Club.

If councillors were paid a living wage, so she could devote herself to the job, it would be a different story.

"I'd be in there running against Neil Marks," she said with a laugh.

Ms Olivieri said the hours were structured to allow councillors to keep working and it was a matter of just getting on and doing it.



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