Today is International Women’s Day and to celebrate the Council’s Chief Executive, Pippa Milne, tells us how it feels to be a woman at the top of local government.
How does it feel to be a woman at the top of your industry?
I feel very proud and lucky to be Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute Council. Working in the public sector and local government in particular is a fascinating and rewarding career. There is so much variety, the opportunity to meet so many different people and the opportunity to make a positive impact in your community. I’m sure the other 31 local authority chief executives, men and women would say similar. And I’m pleased to say that nearly half of all local authority chief executives across Scotland are women. In this Council 52% of the highest paid 5% of employees are women so I’m lucky that I work in a really supportive environment where women are well represented. What’s important to me as a woman in a leadership position is to be a role model for other women. Not only to show that it’s possible to reach a leadership position, if that’s what you want, but also to show that you can do it without trying to live up to a male stereotype. I also think that it’s important to support other women and I like to offer mentoring, advice and support whenever I can.
Have you faced any setbacks due to being a female? Or the opposite, any benefits?
I was really lucky to have been brought up to believe that no career was off limits to me and I haven’t suffered any serious discrimination that impacted on my career progression. My choice to follow a career in local government was a result of sexist comment I was exposed to at university. Some of my tutors made comments about how women in the legal profession were perceived and I became disillusioned with that choice. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of inappropriate comments, sat in many, many meetings where I was the only or one of very few women and experienced patronising behaviour that can so easily dent your confidence. I like to think that the instances of discrimination are reducing all the time and are much rarer now.
Is it important to celebrate International Women’s day?
It’s very important to celebrate International Women’s day – there is still a 10.9% pay gap in Scotland/UK, women are under represented on boards and in certain types of roles. Plus we should celebrate the achievements that have got us this far. And let’s not forget that there are real economic and social benefits to be derived from gender equality – organisations that have good representation across a broad range of groups and genders are more successful. Although we have good gender representation in leadership roles in Argyll and Bute Council but take for example refuse collectors the vast majority of who are men and carers, the vast majority of who are women – we’ve got to make these gender stereotypical roles much more attractive and accessible to all genders.