Women hit glass ceiling at senior board level

More women are sitting on Australian government boards than ever before but the government is falling short of gender targets and women are still hitting the glass ceiling when it comes to senior board positions.

The government’s 2018-19 Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards report shows that women now hold just under 48 per cent of board positions, up 2.1 per cent since June 30 2018.

However women still hold only 35 per cent of Chair and Deputy Chair positions, on par with a year ago, and the number of new female appointments dropped in the last year.

The report is prepared annually by the Office for Women to monitor the government’s gender diversity targets.

The government aims to have women holding 50 per cent of government board positions overall, with men and women each holding at least 40 per cent of positions on individual boards.

The target was introduced on 1 July 2016, replacing the previous overall gender diversity target of 40 per cent.

Of the 2,313 government board positions, 109 (47.4 per cent) are currently occupied by women, the report shows.

However only 143 of the 408 chair and deputy chair positions are filled by women.

The government’s 50 per cent target has been met or exceeded in Communications and Arts; Defence; Employment; Health; Industry, Innovation and Science; PMC and Social Servcies – six more than in the last reporting period.

Agriculture; Attorney-General; Defence, Education, Environment, Finance, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Treasury have achieved over 40 per cent.

Infrastructure was the worst performer with only 34.6 percent and Employment was the best with almost 67 percent.

Of the 656 new appointments made last year, 52.7 per cent were women, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points.

Minister for Women Marise Payne says she’s pleased to see that  seven government portfolios have now reached or exceeded the 50 per cent target, with six within five percentage points off the benchmark. But she admits more needs to be done.

“While we are on track to achieve our targets, there is more we can do, particularly in increasing the representation of women in chair and deputy chair positions,” she says in the report.

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