Gender equality in leadership: failed targets to real action

FEATURE: Agency bosses to identify women to replace them; women to start mentoring men; a sponsorship program to support female leaders … After false starts, South Australia is getting serious about equality.

In 2003, South Australia set an ambitious target to put women in at least half of all executive-level roles in the public service within a decade. Less than a third of all government executives were women at the time.

It failed, despite the best of intentions.

“We’ve made considerable progress,” said Erma Ranieri, the state’s energetic commissioner for public sector employment. “But the fact is there are still plenty of intelligent, talented women working in the public sector who haven’t reached their full potential.” “Systems need to change to recognise the full breadth of the skills base …”

There has, indeed, been progress: women now make up 45% of executives (557 out of 1249). Individual departments have made more progress than others. But leaders now recognise the wholesale, cross-agency change needed to achieve equality at the top was easier said than done.

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