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MML #3: Sixteen Percent of City Managers are Women…


MML #3: Sixteen Percent of City Managers are Women, 16/50 Project Aims for Increase

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 3, 2018)

Lansing, Ferndale, Northville, Huntington Woods, MI-  In spite of being 50% of the population, women make up only  16% of  those in City/Village Manager positions.

At their recent Capital Conference, the Michigan Municipal League announced the launch of the “16/50 Project” which will “work to remove barriers for women seeking the highest level of the profession, provide exclusive professional development opportunities, and foster key opportunities for a new generation of female leaders.”

MML Vice President and Ferndale City Councilperson Melanie Piana was among those who took part in a press conference March 21 to announce the effort.  “I am fortunate to serve in a community with a strong woman City Manager in the City of Ferndale,” Piana said. “The case for making a positive impact on the numbers is strong. According to the International City Council Management Association final report on the status of women in the profession, the demographics of an organization have been shown to influence individual behavior, culture, employee health, and organizational performance.  A lack of gender diversity in organizations has a big price tag of productivity and financial success.”

Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury has been in municipal administration for 18 years.  “I think if I had been paired with a strong municipal woman leader early in my career, it might not have felt so lonely as a woman or I might have had someone to ask those questions to. You know, when you sit around a table and all you see are male counterparts and you know that you’ve got some questions that you’re a little hesitant to ask… it would have been nice to connect with a female ambassador in that.”

The program will include events and outreach efforts, including opportunities for women wanting to go into municipal administration to connect with ambassadors.  The project’s website has profiles of female city/village managers including Huntington Woods City Manager Amy Sullivan. In her 38 year career, Sullivan has been part of 312 contract negotiations.  It’s a part of municipal management that is not often recognized by the public, yet one Sullivan is proud of.  “The most meaningful work I do is union contract negotiations,” she said in her profile.  “I find it important to find a balance between what is in the City’s best interest while also taking into account the impact on the employees. Essentially the only thing cities do is provide services. We need dedicated employees to do that, so their well-being is also a consideration when negotiating.”

City Manager Fleury also shared her love of the job at the press conference.  “There isn’t anything more exciting than watching a challenged neighborhood transform into a vibrant, healthy neighborhood.  It’s exciting to see the police interact with youth on the basketball court or in the classroom.  Yes, it’s even exciting to watch energy efficient programs succeed at the waste water treatment plant.”

Northville City Manager Patrick Sullivan is President of the MML Executives Board.  He joined Piana and others in introducing the program.  “This effort makes sense, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because as managers if we’re going to survive as a profession, we need to bring in talented people from all walks of life. And if we went to attract managers from public administration classrooms, people coming out of the military looking for an encore career, or our own department heads who might be qualified to step up and be municipal executives, these groups are a lot more than 16% female, so we need to have an association and the leadership of our association needs to reflect what we want to have in the future, not just the composition of managers today.”

This article is the third in a series of articles about the Michigan Municipal League Capital conference held March 20-21, 2018. If you aren’t already on our list for Daily Headlines, please sign up HERE so you won’t miss any of this exciting and informative series! Find other MML related articles HERE.

For more on Michigan Municipal League, check out their website at

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