Page 936 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

All of the MLAs here now, with one exception, are women. Minister Gentleman may also have seen this but we have all seen this all the time: the female is the one who is ignored. If we work our way into the picture, then yes, we are included; but they were not quite sure what they were going to do with us because we were not quite part of the original plan.

It is not totally getting better. The number of women in key leadership positions has fallen in recent times, with only nine women CEOs and 10 women chairing boards of the top ASX 200 companies. Overall, only 24.79 per cent of board directors are women, with only 12.7 per cent of ASX boards having a gender target at all. Such disproportionate representation of men in key positions does a disservice to everybody: to organisations, shareholders, business community, Australia overall. We are missing out on the benefits that our 52 per cent of the population can provide. Having more women at the decision-making table makes sense, because women can bring a different point of view. As Albert Einstein said, we cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking that we used to create them.

It makes sense to ensure that we do capture the voice of women, because we are capturing our voices, observations, analysis and understanding of the world view, and we can influence outcomes. There is a pool of talent that is just not being fully tapped into. Diversity and gender balance are engines of innovation and the key to ensuring that the status quo shifts and affects meaningful change.

Looking at it financially, the business case for gender balance is rock solid. Research by Catalyst found that of the Fortune 500 companies in the US, the ones with the highest percentage of female corporate officers reported, on average, a 35 per cent higher return on equity and a 34 per cent higher return to shareholders than the companies which had the lowest proportions of female corporate officers. It makes sense to include more women. Striving for gender balance—and of course diversity as a whole, not just gender balance—is the right thing to do.

I would also note that the gender pay gap unfortunately appears to be increasing rather than decreasing, and we need to make sure there are deliberate initiatives to reduce this gap. In Australia the gender pay gap sits at 23 per cent, with men earning on average $26,000 a year more than women. Sixty-nine per cent of men are employed full-time, compared to only 40.7 per cent of women, 16. 3 per cent of CEOs are women and 28.5 per cent of key management personnel are women.

These depressing numbers highlight the inequities faced by women in Australia and across the globe, for that matter. We are often employed in low pay sectors, face high levels of discrimination in the workplace and take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid caring and thus find ourselves at the bottom of the pile.

I am told that on current trends it will take 170 years for women to be paid the same as men, and, I fear, all of us will not be around to see this. All of this results in women having less retirement savings and a significantly increased risk of insecure housing or in fact homelessness as they age. Older women are the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness or severe housing stress.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video