Thursday, 13 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Thank you very much to Senator Askew for that question. She is a fine female senator from Tasmania.
I also want to thank my ministerial colleagues here and in the other place for their commitment to gender diversity when making Australian government board appointments. As of 30 June last year—and the figures have just been released—Australian women held 47.9 per cent of Australian government board positions, which is an all-time high. This is the highest percentage of women on government boards since public reporting began more than a decade ago, and I think it's an achievement that we can all welcome. It represents a 7.4-percentage-point increase since the gender diversity target of 50 per cent was set in 2016. Positively, again, women accounted for 54 per cent of new appointments to government boards, which is an increase of 4.7 percentage points in the six months to 30 June 2019.
We know that gender diversity on boards and in other leadership positions contributes to more effective and innovative decision-making and outcomes. The government is strongly committed, and I am personally committed, to increasing gender diversity on Australian government boards and to reaching our 50 per cent target. Boards should reflect the full diversity of Australia, and we should use the rich resource of the talent of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse women, LGBTI women and women with disability—women living all over the country.
Our progress towards gender balance on government boards is improving leadership choices for Australian women every day. As a government, we're committed to targeting key areas that promote greater choice for women, as we demonstrated in our Women's Economic Security Statement last year, including by increasing women's workforce participation, supporting economic independence and improving earning potential.
Again I thank Senator Askew for her question, because it is important that there are a range of strategies, and the government has a number to reach that 50 per cent target. It includes the fact that portfolio ministers are specifically asked to do a number of things: to identify female candidates, to encourage external bodies that propose nominations to consider gender diversity in that process, and to develop specific strategies with their departments and agencies.
Our annual public reporting of gender balance on Australian government boards also plays a really important role in our tracking of progress against our target and in driving change. We maintain the BoardLinks database to assist portfolios to identify suitably qualified, board-ready female candidates. A number of our departments and agencies have adopted strategies tailored to their portfolios. Certainly my own has, and I know that the Department of Defence, for example, offers training to diversify its board membership to support the pipeline of board-ready women. These are all positive initiatives and strategies.
The government is investing in a range of projects that foster women's leadership. They include Sport Australia's Women Leaders in Sport program and the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia's Academy for Enterprising Girls, which I had the opportunity to meet last year. They're an absolutely fabulous group, and that's encouraging the next generation of women leaders in STEM and in business.
I also want to acknowledge the work of organisations such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Commonwealth Bank, for example, who together are using the Board Level podcast to promote advice from Australia's leading female directors. Thanks also to groups like the Male Champions of Change for their leadership, with 62.4 per cent of members improving gender balance in management positions in their organisations. I want to applaud the efforts of so many Australian organisations that are improving gender balance in public roles and actively encourage those who still have more to do to take up the opportunity, to take up the challenge and to deliver.