The Australian government’s commitment to women and gender equality is being questioned by leading advocacy group Women on Boards, following the Christmas release of a key report.
Executive director of Women on Boards, Claire Braund, said the 2013-2014 Gender Balance on Australian Boards Report (released on December 23), showed a two per cent decline in the number of women on government boards after two years of steady gains.
As at June 30, 2014, women held 39.7 per cent of the 3,206 board positions on 387 Australian government boards and bodies, compared with 41.7 per cent of 4,039 positions on 460 boards in 2013.
‘The decline is only small – for now,’ Ms Braund said.
‘What concerns us is what happens in the next two years – unless attention is paid to arresting this decline it could very easily blow out to six to ten per cent where it will become exponentially harder to arrest.’
Ms Braund said it spoke volumes that the biggest decline was in the number of women serving on boards in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – down from 41.2 percent to 29.4 percent (50 board positions from 170 are held by women).
She went onto say that the language and the rhetoric in the report were at odds with the government’s stated intention of continuing to work towards a gender diversity target where women hold at least 40 per cent of Australian government board positions.
‘The report is a scant nine pages, defensive in tone and leads with the government’s $1 million program for special scholarships and mentoring which perpetuate the myth there is not enough qualified and experienced women to be invited to serve on government boards. We all know this is errant nonsense and at odds with prevailing views in a progressive economy and society.’
See more www.womenonboards.org.au.