Record number of women recognised in Queen's Birthday Honours

Record number of women recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

A record number of Australian women were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours on Monday.

Women comprised 40% of recipients across all tiers of the awards, including five out of the 12 people receiving the highest award, the Companion of the Order of Australia. It is the highest percentage of women recipients in the history of the awards.

High profile women recognised include ABC Chair Ita Buttrose, domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, Natasha Stott-Despoja, Jane Caro, Leigh Sales, Carol Schwartz, Diane Smith-Gander, Carrie Bickmore, former union boss Sharan Burrow and 2018 Australian of the Year Professor Michelle Simmons.

Since the Order of Australia was established in 1975, men have consistently received around 70% of the Australian honours. Parity is still a long way off but, thanks to concerted efforts, we are edging closer towards it.

Community organisation Honour a Woman, co-founded by Carol Kiernan and Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency are specifically seeking to reach parity by highlighting the current gender inequalities in the awards system and asking all Australians to nominate more women for awards.

Statistics provided by the Governor General’s Office to Honour a Woman illustrate the gender disparities in last year’s round of Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia Awards:

  • Out of the 31 categories, 28 had more male than female nominees
  • Mining was the only category with more female nominees and men and women were equally represented in the Religion and the Conservation and the Environment categories
  • 8 categories had no female nominees at all
  • In the female-dominated industry of Education, 58% of nominees were male (35 out of 61)
  • In Medicine, 78% of nominees were male (89 out of 114)
  • 66% of all nominees (718 out of 1090) and 63% of all award recipients (489 out of 778) were male

“These statistics from last year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list are very telling and clearly show just how we undervalue women and the important contribution women make in our society,” said Workplace Gender Equality Agency director and Ambassador for Honour a Woman, Libby Lyons says. “We know that receiving an Order of Australia award increases a woman’s profile and raises their visibility in their chosen field. As more women receive awards, it might even help to improve the persistent lack of gender balance on boards and at the CEO level.”

The Honour a Woman co-founders said that gender inequality in the Australian honours system begins with fewer women being nominated.

“These awards do not fairly represent our society. Many outstanding women who contribute tirelessly to our community are being overlooked. In last year’s Community category, where you would expect women to be more fairly represented, 62% of nominees were male (292 out of 470).

“Continuously rewarding more men and fewer women with an Order of Australia perpetuates the cycle of women’s invisibility in society, in the community, in the workforce and in the boardroom.

“It is time for the Order of Australia to recognise equally ‘men and women whose actions have set them apart and enriched our community’.”

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