Blueprint for gender equity

By Angela Dorizas

Governments must set gender equality targets for government boards and amend procurement procedures to encourage equal opportunity, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has said.

At the launch of her Gender Equality Blueprint at the National Press Club last week, Ms Broderick called on the Australian Government to follow the lead of state and territory governments in setting a target for women on boards.

“Gender equality targets for state and territory government boards are now in place in several states,” Ms Broderick said.

“They have had a dramatic impact. But what of federal government boards?

“My Blueprint recommends that the Australian Government announce a minimum target of 40 per cent of each gender on all federal government boards to be achieved within three years.

“This target should be publicly announced with annual reports of progress made.”

Increasing the number of women on government boards was just one of the recommendations in the Gender Equality Blueprint for 2010.

Ms Broderick also flagged changes to government procurement procedures to support gender equality in business. She recommended that all government contracts awarded to Australian businesses should require certification that businesses meet gender equality obligations under the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act.

“This will create a real incentive for businesses to take gender equality seriously,” Ms Broderick said.

“In this way, both business and government will be doing their part to increase the representation of women at decision making levels across our country.”

Ms Broderick welcomed the passage of paid parental leave legislation, but warned that there was still a “long way to go” towards achieving gender equality.

“We cannot let the prevailing wisdom become that, because we have secured one major reform – through the passing of paid parental leave – we have expended our political capital, that we have done gender equality – at least for now,” she said.

The Gender Equality Blueprint included 15 recommendations in five major priority areas, identified by the Commissioner during her national listening tour: balancing paid work and family caring responsibilities; ensuring lifetime economic security for women; promoting women in leadership; preventing violence and harassment against women and girls; and strengthening Australia’s gender equality laws, agencies and monitoring.

Ms Broderick urged governments and political parties to show leadership by adopting the Blueprint’s recommendations.

“Gender equality has got to be front and centre of our plan for the nation’s economic and social security, particularly in an election year, and the good news is that the Blueprint’s recommendations can be implemented now,” she said.

Legislation to stengthen and modernise the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced into Parliament on Thursday. Ms Broderick welcomed the proposed reforms, which would effectively protect workers and school students from sexual harassment, including cyber bullying. 

Download the report: Gender Equality Blueprint for 2010 [PDF] 

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