The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Politics

May 31, 2014

Women redefining gender roles in government

ANDERSON — Jody Townsend says she is not afraid to tackle life head on.

The 35-year-old business owner runs a tight schedule in order to juggle her home and work schedules, but that has not stopped her from adding another responsibility to her agenda — bucking stereotypes.

Townsend, who was recently appointed deputy building commissioner and assistant planning director for the city of Anderson, is one of the first women to ever fill this traditionally male role in local government.

Frank Owens, director of municipal development for the city of Anderson, said four men and two women applied for the deputy building commissioner position.

“I looked for the best candidate and I found her,” he said. “She is shattering glass ceilings.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for women in 2012 was 7.9 percent compared to 8.1 percent for men. The department is also forecasting the number of women in the labor force to increase between 2010 and 2020 at a rate of .7 percent compared to .6 percent for men.

Earlier this year, a Harris poll study found a majority of both genders felt there are too few women in positions of power. However, when asked to choose between men and women for 11 specific occupations — from President of the United States to nurse — most Americans, particularly men, expressed traditional gender expectations. Most men preferred to interact with female teachers and male senior corporate executives. Even women felt most comfortable with male engineers, according to the poll commissioned by Pershing,a business solutions firm.

But many of the jobs now being filled are ones previously reserved for men.

Owens said when looking for quality in the candidates who applied, he never stopped to consider gender.

“I, myself, think outside of the box and I think it is time in the 21st century of looking at new ways of doing things and that includes the female gender,” he said. “Before it was always that was the way it was and the way it stayed."

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