Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Launch of Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report 2012-13

It’s great to be here this afternoon with all of you.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Ngunnawal people – and pay my respects to elders past and present.

I am sure everyone here is aware of the target this Government committed to back in 2010.

To achieve a minimum of 40 per cent representation of women on Australian Government boards by 2015.

In 2010, the percentage of women on Government boards was 34.5 per cent.

We set a 40:40:20 target because we know companies with equal gender representation on their boards outperform those with fewer women.

We know these companies perform better against all financial indicators.

We know that gender balance on boards improves governance and leads to more informed and stronger decision-making.

This is not about setting a target for the sake of setting a target.

This is about ensuring we – as a nation – are maximising the potential of half of our population.

It’s about reaping the benefits of women’s skills and experiences by including them in all that we do.

There’s no doubt that tapping into the potential of all our people is vital to us remaining a competitive and prosperous country in today’s fast-moving global economy.

That’s why I am pleased to be here today to launch this year’s Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report.

The report gives us a snapshot on how we are going on getting the balance right.

And I am very pleased to announce that, as a whole, we have exceeded the 40 per cent gender balance target two years ahead of schedule.

As at 30 June 2013, women held 41.7 per cent and men held 58.3 per cent of the 4039 board positions on 460 Government boards and bodies.

This represents a 3.3 per cent increase from last year’s results.

Thirteen individual portfolios met or exceeded their 40 per cent target this year, an increase of five portfolios since last year.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers but it is worth mentioning a few.

More than half of the 19 government agencies appointed at least 40 per cent women to new board appointments.

Of the 1069 new appointments to Government boards between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013, women represented 47.6 per cent and men represented 52.4 per cent.

Put another way, that means 509 women were appointed to boards along with 560 men.

This is a fantastic effort and one we should celebrate.

Of course there is still some work to do.

Some portfolios have yet to reach the 40 per cent mark but two years out they are well on track to meet the target by 2015.

In the meantime we are continuing to provide pathways to help women get appointed to boards.

The recently launched BoardLinks provides training, mentoring and support for women looking to be appointed to their first board.

The AusGovBoards website offers a one-stop-shop with information on Australian Government board membership as well as vacancies and policies promoting board diversity.

Of course, getting the balance on Government boards right is only part of levelling the gender playing field.

Since coming to office in 2007, Labor has driven some significant reforms to help remove barriers to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the workforce and the economy.

More than 280,000 families have so far benefitted from our Government-funded Paid Parental Leave scheme – a first for Australia.

In 2009, we passed the Fair Work Act – a piece of legislation that provides fairness and flexibility for women in the workplace, and promotes opportunities and equality in their careers.

In 2012, we introduced the Workplace Gender Equality Act and Agency to help transform workplace culture and remove “attitudinal roadblocks” to women’s full and equal participation in the workforce.

Our amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act will make it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of family responsibilities across all employment related areas, not just termination.

And as a result of the historic pay equity decision last year, 150,000 of Australia’s lowest paid workers in the social and community sector were awarded wage increases of between 23 and 45 per cent – 120,000 of these workers are women.

Today gender equality is as much an economic imperative as a social one.

We know that increasing the participation of women in the workforce could increase Australia’s GDP by as much as 13 per cent.

Today, there can be no question that ensuring women have the opportunity to participate equally in all aspects of business, public and community life is the best way to guarantee a strong and prosperous future for Australia.

Our efforts are part of a long feminist battle.

And we have made great strides forward.

I’m proud today to be part of a Government that has a record number of women in the ministry and around the Cabinet table.

A Government that has appointed a record number of women to our courts.

And now, has appointed a record number of women to Government boards.

Thank you.