The City of Greater Bendigo (the City) is located in central Victoria on Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung country and offers all the benefits of a large city in a thriving regional centre.
The organisation delivers more than 65 services to a community of 126,000 people, a figure expected to grow to nearly 200,000 people by 2050, and employs almost 1100 people, 58% of whom are women.
In an era marked by significant disruption, major regional growth as more people move out of metropolitan areas and unprecedented change in almost all respects, the City of Greater Bendigo is shaping a future that is both inclusive and visionary.
With a significant role in the broader region, central to this mission is the recognition of the indispensable leadership capabilities women bring to the organisation and the community. The City’s dedication to cultivating women leaders has found expression through Dattner Group’s Compass Leadership Program, and this report aims to illuminate the profound impact it has had on those who have participated, and the organisation at large.
The City first began sending women to the program in 2016, as they wanted to ensure that there was local, quality leadership programs to support the region and be accessible to the staff.
Since then, some 50 women have taken part, traversing many an obstacle – not least of which, a pandemic, which saw the program shift online. Eight years on, the program, along with those at the City who champion it, continues to drive positive change for all.
This case study was commissioned in August 2023, to acknowledge this commitment and, most importantly, take a step back and examine the impact on the participants, the City, and the community of long-range investment in this kind of development.
‘Women need to have support to take up leadership roles as big or small as they are – it still does not come as natural as it does for men. And to access that potential. I sometimes say to my husband, ‘how has humanity survived this long without the input of women?’ And maybe we are where we are because women were excluded?’ Compass alumni, Bendigo
‘Developing women’s leadership skills is very important at City of Greater Bendigo as it demonstrates the commitment to gender equality and the benefits women bring to leadership roles within the organisation.’ Compass alumni, Bendigo
About this Case Study
This case study features the voices and stories of ten women who were interviewed, and survey data from an additional 14 participants. This represents around 60% of women at the City who have completed the Compass Flagship program.
What follows are the main themes that emerged from the interviews when participants were asked the following questions:
What remains the most memorable thing about Compass for you?
Do you believe developing leadership skills in women is important. If so, why?
What impact on your career has this leadership development had?
What impact on your organisation/community?
What impact on your personal life?
What did it do for you in terms of levels of engagement and connection to your organisation?
What is next for your leadership development?
The full case study contains many insights and verbatim comments that reflect the Compass program’s long-term partnership with the City of Greater Bendigo and we invite you to explore the transformative journey of the council’s women leaders. Their experiences exemplify the value of investing in women’s leadership development, and a vision of sustainable constructive leadership.
In summary, the interviews revealed the following common themes.
Investing in Empowerment and Confidence Building: The Compass program has emerged as a beacon of empowerment and self-assurance for women in the City of Greater Bendigo. Through a blend of self-reflective exercises and skill development, participants have discovered their voices, honed their decision-making abilities, and emerged as more confident advocates for change. These newfound qualities permeate not only their professional lives but also their personal journeys, fostering more holistically assertive and resilient leaders.
An Uplifting Experience of Self-Discovery: One of the most memorable facets of the Compass program has been its profound effect on self-awareness. Participants now possess a deeper understanding of their strengths and areas for growth. Armed with this knowledge, they are more equipped to make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and lead with authenticity.
Catalysing Positive Change: Participating in Compass has spurred women to break free from their comfort zones, to confront challenges with renewed vigour, and to embrace newfound responsibilities. This shift in mindset and approach has translated into more innovative thinking and a willingness to navigate uncharted waters.
Building Supportive Networks: A robust network of women leaders has blossomed within the City because of Compass. This network serves as a platform for mentorship, ideas exchange, and mutual support. The bonds forged within this network support women to thrive and to contribute positively to the organisation’s progress.
Fostering Values-Driven Leadership: Compass has imbued women leaders with a values-driven approach to leadership. Aligned with their core values, they make decisions marked by integrity and ethics, fostering a sense of shared purpose and unity within the organisation.
At the Dattner Group, we acknowledge First Nations people both here in Australia and around the world. We thank First Nations people for the countless millennia of teaching, caring, learning, leadership and culture, and we pay our deepest respects to the wisdom of Indigenous people and custom past, present and emerging.