Women on Boards and Committees

04 Jun 2014 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question on gender asbestos to the Minister for the Status of Women.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, has recently given a speech about representation on private and government boards in which she says:

We now see gender asbestos. Bias built into the wall of business.

She goes on to say:

…where attitudes that discriminated against females were hidden but still embedded in the workplaces of many organisations.

My questions are: does the minister agree with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's comments and what does she think are measures that can be taken to address this problem?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:22 :46 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. This government has a strong track record for its commitment and action around initiatives to increase women's participation on boards and committees, women being represented in leadership positions, particularly the executive of our Public Service, and encouraging women across a wide range of areas to assist them in developing themselves in leadership roles, because we know only too well that women remain underrepresented in senior positions and leadership positions.

This government has an extremely good track record, not only in relation to achievements in all those areas but also in terms of leadership in terms of women's representation here in parliament. I know that we have a much better representation of women in the South Australian government and in our cabinet team than the Liberal opposition so, like I said, we have put our money where our mouth is and we have a well-established track record and credentials in this spot.

We have worked on other initiatives, like the Premier's Women's Directory, which now has, I think, around 800 (it may not be 800, but I will check)—a large number of women—now represented. We have maintained very close links with various women's groups, including industry-specific organisations that focus on women in leadership. These include things like women in agriculture, women in superannuation, and women living in regional areas. Staff from the Office for Women have attended various meetings and training facilitated by these organisations.

In February this year—Mr President, I know you would remember this—I announced 25 board training scholarships for South Australian women. These are fully funded scholarships and they are offered by the South Australian government for women to attend introductory level governance training delivered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Applications for those scholarships close in June (this month), so you need to hurry if you are still interested. Last year, we provided a further 25 scholarships. I have spoken to some of those women directly and many of them have written to me and expressed how grateful they were for the opportunity to attend such a course and the significant difference that it has made to their lives.

We have a well-established track record. We have STEM initiatives as well, women in science technology and maths. We have done a lot of work in that space as well to develop women's participation in those high-growing areas. As I said, this government truly has a well-established track record.