The constant debate about gender equity in senior positions, glass ceilings, quotas, as well as my getting older have driven my need to prove that capability and capacity does not fade because you’re an older woman.
Marlene Johnson Bayside Council election hopeful.
Women make up half the workforce, yet only 38 percent of people elected to local government in Victoria.
Why? Because many talented, qualified women don’t back themselves to run.
Bayside Council’s ‘Changing Faces’ exhibition is one of several Victorian government projects providing pathways for more women to stand.
It encouraged Marlene Johnson to take the plunge, and she wants others to follow suit.
Find out how you can run here.
Martine Harte: What finally prompted you to throw your hat in the ring for the upcoming council election?
Marlene Johnson: I am passionate about access and equity. The constant debate about gender equity in senior positions, glass ceilings, quotas, as well as my getting older have driven my need to prove that capability and capacity does not fade because you’re an older woman.
My work in the community exposes me to the many aspects of life in Highett and Hampton East that can be improved by equitable investment and community engagement by Council. I feel my professional and personal life experiences have positioned me well to be a local voice for this community.
How did the ‘Changing Faces‘ project play a part in this decision?
Marlene Johnson: The ‘Changing Faces’ project gave me hope that this LGA was committed to engaging more women in decision making roles. However, as the project went on, and COVID hit, I felt a wonderful opportunity had been missed. I waited to see if other younger women might get involved, but then decided that no, it was my turn.
Tell us a bit about your professional background?
Marlene Johnson: I entered the teaching profession as a single mother, mature-aged student in the 70s. Everything that Gough and Anne Summers set up to address – simpler divorce and easier access to tertiary education for working classes.
My pathway through education led me through face to face teaching, management, professional development of teachers, state and federal roll out of change management initiatives in the education and training sector, senior management roles at state and federal government level and then, the final decade of working life, running my own educational consultancy.
Throughout all of these roles was threaded the passion and desire to spread access to education for all and to ensure that facilitators of education understood the privilege and responsibility of their profession.
How will your experience bring value to the Bayside community?
Marlene Johnson: My professional experience equips me the the skillsets of governance, strategic planning and community development. My 29 year residency as an Ivison family gives me the long term local knowledge which has seen Ivison change from suburbs of Kingston to a ward of Bayside, seen older couples walking their dogs being joined by young couples with children in prams (or walking their dogs!), young and retired people moving into the many new townhouses and apartments but not seen the commensurate investment and infrastructure to match that increase in population and chance in demographic.
Who inspires you?
Marlene Johnson: People who inspire me are those women of all walks of life who rise strongly to the challenges facing their families and communities and work to find an answer. The single mother who reeducates herself to provide a better future for her children, the indigenous aunties who look after the extended families to ensure they get to school, the community volunteers who delivered food packages to public housing isolated during COVID – people who are leaders in their own spheres of influence.
Which political figures (women) do you most want to draw from?
Marlene Johnson: Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek – for their humanity, commitment to education and women.
Engaging Women has always advocated for mature woman to find their voice and platform in society, what’s your view on this?
Marlene Johnson: Mature women bring so many gifts to the table – wisdom, both corporate and life; humility – they know that learning is life long; generosity – they love to help through mentoring, coaching, resources; pragmatism – they know that every battle does not need to be won. The most thrilling experiences for me are when I see a mature woman who has been recognised in her field share her experiences and share her passion.