Senator Michaelia Cash might be wondering what happened to her email inbox after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told women gathered at a Westpac lunch on Wednesday to send their CVs to the Minister for Women.
Bishop said that with the Turnbull Government increasing the target for women on government boards from 40 to 50%, there are ‘thousands of board positions’ available for women.
Cash announced the measure at her own International Women’s Day address at the National Press Club on Tuesday, declaring the target shows the Government is “committed to women in leadership and we’re prepared to lead the way”.
Unfortunately this government doesn’t yet have the best record on ‘leading the way’ when it comes to gender balanced boards.
While most industry sectors have seen an upwards trend for gender balanced boards, the same can not be said for government boards over the last three years.
An October 2015 Boardlinks report card found the number of women on government boards was at 39.1%, down from 39.7% from the previous year and 41.7% in 2013.
Only a slight decrease, but a disheartening figure to see given the 40% target we had already reached under the previous Labor government.
Still, Senator Cash said she’s confident the new target can be reached through “pro active efforts by all ministers”. She said the government needs to lead by example in order to see change across corporate Australia.
During her address Cash also added that women and men are being ‘funnelled’ into certain roles and stereotypes at home and at work. Only by noticing and challenging these ‘norms’ can we “start to replace them with something else” — although she refused to comment on whether this week’s speculation regarding Peta Credlin’s time as Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff amounted to sexism.
Cash added that “Australia’s dirty little secret” of domestic violence is now in the spotlight.
Speaking at Barangaroo yesterday for Westpac’s International Women’s Day lunch, foreign minister Julie Bishop noted that back in 2013 she was one of only 25 female foreign ministers in the world, but that figure’s now risen to 31.
She said combating violence against women is an essential measure in achieving gender equality at home and abroad. “No society is immune, but in parts of our region it is endemic.”
Bishop is one of only six women in the Turnbull ministry. But across the Pacific a lack of women in power is even more problematic. Leaving out Australia and New Zealand, women account for just 6% of parliamentarians across the Pacific compared with 22% globally.
Both Cash and Bishop used their separate addresses to highlight Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a ‘champion for women’.
Raising the government board target to 50% is a good start, as was his funding announcement to help combat family violence last year, along with increasing the number of women in the ministry (albeit from a very low base under Abbott).
But there’s still a lot more that we need to see for women during this election year.