House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Women in the Workforce

2:03 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lindsay for her question and congratulate her on leading the W21 think tank program, a global women's initiative at the US Studies Centre. She, like so many of the female class of 2019 on both sides of the House, will make an extraordinary contribution to this parliament. While acknowledging that we have further to go, it is important to also recognise how far we've come. Our mothers and grandmothers talked not about the gender pay gap but about the opportunity to be in the workforce at all. Until 1966, within the lifetime of many of the people in this parliament, women had to resign from the Public Service when they got married. While women still battle discrimination, it's different to what it was before.

In my field of aviation, I well recall Debbie Wardley, a pilot who took Ansett Airlines to court based on her determination to fly in the left-hand seat of a commercial airliner. The case against Debbie Wardley was that women were unsuitable to fly commercially—their menstrual cycles made them unsuitable; they didn't have the strength to, for example, manually lower the landing gear in the event of a hydraulic failure. In the year that Debbie Wardley won the case, she inspired an awful lot of women to fly aircraft—and I was one of them.

We are supporting more women into leadership positions in the public and private sectors, including meeting our own gender diversity targets of women holding 50 per cent of Australian government board positions overall. We are at 47.9 per cent. That's the highest we have been at since 2013. So this government is making real progress. As the Prime Minister said, that is the highest percentage of women on government boards since public reporting began. We have reduced the gender pay gap to 14 per cent. It's come down by three per cent since 2013—and I know that the Minister for Women, in the other place, is determined to get that number down. As I said, the gender pay gap is shrinking.

In 2018 we, for the first time, produced the Women's Economic Security Statement, because we recognise that strong correlation between a country's progress in closing the gender pay gap and its economic competitiveness, its national productivity, its innovation, its economic growth and the ability of companies to attract and retain talent. We are building on investments such as Women in STEM and entrepreneurship through the Curious Minds Future Female Entrepreneurs and we are boosting the Female Founders Program. Many of the high-paying jobs of the future will be in these sectors and will benefit the whole of society.

There are incredible women in Australia—particularly, I must say, in rural Australia. They tend to hide their light under a bushel, but I just want to say to them all—and in fact to women everywhere who are in leadership positions—that the generation coming behind you can't be what they can't see. So step out and shine your light. (Time expired)


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.