Council's gender diversity an example worth following

Last week, seven women were sworn in to Lexington Fayette County's Urban County Council, the highest number ever on the 15-member body.

It shouldn't necessarily seem a reason to celebrate when a group that represents slightly over half the population gets to close to the halfway mark in elected office, but it is.

Consider the Kentucky General Assembly, where there are 23 women among the 137 senators and representatives, or just under 17 percent.

This number has actually gotten worse: In 2013, women made up almost 21 percent of the legislators, still a painfully low number. The Senate is particularly grim: Only four of the 37 members are women.

At least at ten percent that's in the double digits. Fewer than five percent of Kentucky's county judge-executives are women.

It's long seemed like a matter of simple fairness that women, who make up slightly over half of the population, should play a larger role in its governance.

But research also confirms what many intuited: Institutions where women play a larger role perform better than those where they don't.

For example, in 2007 the consulting firm McKinsey and Co. reported on a study it conducted that indicated companies in which women are "most strongly represented at board or top management level" are also the companies that perform best.

A paper published in the Harvard Business Review in 2012 detailed the results of evaluations of 7,280 leaders in successful organizations in public and private companies, government and commercial organizations, both domestic and international.

The authors noted that men are much more commonly found in the top spots in these organizations but that, "at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows."

So, congratulations to Fayette County voters, and to the women who sought public office and are serving. Here's hoping it's a trend that will spread.