Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Launch Of ‘Get On Board (Even Better – Become The Chair)’

Location: Melbourne

Thank you Carol [Schwartz] for your kind introduction and for inviting me here today.

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting on today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I am delighted to be a part of a project that works to improve women’s leadership opportunities – an issue that I am committed to both personally and as the Minister for the Status of Women.

The “Advancing Diversity and Women in Australia” project and the publication I am launching today – Get on Board (Even Better – Become the Chair) – provides a practical focus for women who are new or aspiring to a board role.

We know women want to be on boards – the Australian Government and the Australian Institute of Company Directors received around 2000 applications for the 70 scholarships on offer for board-ready women to attend directorship courses.

This book assists women seeking a board position with ‘hands-on’ advice in straight-forward language, suggestions on how to be appointed to a board and outlines what the roles and responsibilities of board membership include.

Women’s under-representation on boards

Women remain under-represented in senior leadership and management positions in virtually all sectors – despite women’s workforce participation rate increasing significantly over the past thirty years.

Women are just as well educated, skilled and interested in leadership roles as their male counterparts, yet the representation of women in ASX200 boardrooms as of February was only 13.8 per cent. Out of the ASX 200, 64 boards still have no women.

The Government is pleased to see the private sector is responding to the low representation of women in leadership roles and on boards.

The ASX Corporate Governance Council has been implementing a diversity policy since January 2011 requiring publicly listed companies in Australia to set gender diversity targets or provide explanations if these are not in place.

The benefits of gender balance on boards

Evidence in the private sector shows gender balance in top level decision-making roles increases the economic performance of boards.

This in turn benefits the economy and all Australians.

With gender balance, there is also improved governance and decision making.

Women on government boards targets

The Government is dedicated to seeing greater gender balance in the nation’s top level boards and leadership roles.

The number of women on Australian Government boards has been steadily increasing over recent years.

On 30 June 2010, women’s representation on Government boards sat at 34.5 per cent.

Clearly, considerable effort is still needed to reach equal representation.

This is why the Government committed to a target of at least 40 per cent of women and at least 40 per cent of men on Australian Government boards by 2015.

In the coming weeks, I will release the Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report 2010 -2011.

I expect the report will show more positive signs of women advancing into the boardroom.

The Government’s gender balance target is helping to create a change in attitudes towards women and leadership – change that is vital for gender equality within professional Australia and in the community more broadly.

Through our targets, the Government is also improving the performance and decision making of its boards and providing leadership to the community and private sector.

I also commend the work of others – such as the “Advancing Diversity and Women in Australia” project and this book we’re launching today – Get on Board (Even Better – Become the Chair).

These work hand in hand with the Government’s gender balance target to create broader cultural change around women’s leadership and equal representation in professional Australia.

The private sector

Corporate Australia is also taking action to address inequality in its leadership ranks.

The Government actively supports private sector targets by working with corporate bodies on leadership projects initiatives, such as our partnership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

I am always excited to hear about gender equality and women in leadership initiatives in the private sector.

The Male Champions of Change initiative – convened by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Elizabeth Broderick – brings together high-profile male leaders, using their influence to ensure women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda.

Of course, every year, our own Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency – soon to be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency – recognises outstanding private sector organisations through both their Business Achievement Awards and their Employer of Choice for Women citations.


Change in the make-up of our boards has been too slow.

The Government, community and private sector are working together to create the necessary cultural change to boost women’s leadership and gender equality in professional and corporate Australia.

Thanks to everyone here for your efforts.

We know more change is achievable – but as this book reminds us, it sometimes takes more than just goodwill.

It takes commitment and concerted effort by governments and organisations.

Practical support for women who are, and who aspire to become, leaders is also required.

Congratulations to author Kylie Cirak on putting the book together – I officially launch Get on Board (Even Better – Become the Chair).

I wish you all the best in the future.