The rate of women on Commonwealth government boards was at its highest in 2019, according to a new report from the Office for Women.
In 2016, the government set a target of women holding 50% of government board positions overall, and men and women each holding at least 40% of positions on individual boards.
June 30 2019 saw women hold 47.9% of 2313 government board positions, the report found. This was a 2.1 percentage point improvement since June 2018, and was the highest proportion of women on boards since reporting began in 2009.
Seven portfolios met or exceeded the 50% gender diversity target in 2019, the report revealed. They were Communications and the Arts; Defence; Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business; Health; Industry, Innovation and Science; Prime Minister and Cabinet; and Social Services.
While this had gone up from six portfolios in the previous reporting period, the impact of recent machinery of government changes — which altered four of the above portfolios — on the diversity of boards will not be known until the 2020 report is released.
Also at the time of reporting, Agriculture, Attorney-General’s, Education, Environment and Energy, and Foreign Affairs and Trade, were within five percentage points of meeting the target.
Despite the representation of women on government boards having increased for seven of 16 portfolios between June 2018 and June 2019, minister for women Marise Payne noted that more work would be needed to increase the representation of women in senior roles.
The report found that there was no change in the number of women in chair and deputy chair roles across all government boards in 2019, remaining at 35% since the last annual report.
Further, of the 656 new appointments made over 2018–19, 52.7% of nominees were women, which was actually a decrease of 0.4 percentage points.
Payne said she would continue to work with ministers, state and territory governments, businesses and unions to “improve gender diversity when making nominations to future Australian government board positions”.
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