Page 809 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 21 March 2018

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MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (11.41): I am pleased to stand in support of the motion today, as part of the first female majority parliament in Australia’s history. I have been told that Tasmania has also joined us in the esteemed ranks of parliaments with a female majority. It is good to see that we are spreading throughout Australia.

The Greens also recognise the significant contribution of women and girls in the cultural, social, political and economic fabric of the ACT. We know that women make up 52 per cent of our community and are the majority of this assembly, but we also know that women are unfortunately still vastly underrepresented in many areas of civil society. This is, of course, a phenomenon that is not unique to Canberra or Australia.

A recent report by Oxfam suggested that eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. That is horrible. In Australia, research suggests that fewer large Australian companies are run by women than by men named John, Peter or David. Straight, white, able-bodied men between the ages of 40 and 69 represent the majority of Australian leadership, yet they are only 8.4 per cent of the population.

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 200 ASX companies. Overall, only 24.7 per cent of board directors are women, with only 12.7 per cent of boards having a gender target at all. Such disproportionate representation of men in key positions does a disservice to organisations, shareholders, the business community and Australia overall.

We are missing out on the benefits that the majority of the population, 52 per cent of us, can provide. Having more women at the decision 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 when we created them. So it makes sense to ensure that we are capturing the voices of women, that we are capturing their observations, analysis, understanding and world view, and that their views are influencing and changing outcomes. There is a pool of talent which is not really being fully tapped into. Diversity and gender balance are the engines of innovation and the key to ensuring that the status quo shifts and effects meaningful change.

The business case for gender balance is rock solid. Research by Catalyst found that Fortune 500 companies in the US with the highest percentage of female corporate officers reported, on average, a 35.1 per cent higher return on equity and a 34 per cent higher return to shareholders than companies with the lowest percentages of female corporate officers. So it is about generating better results as much as anything. Striving for gender balance and diversity, for that matter, is the right thing to do.

It is very unfortunate that the gender pay gap is increasing rather than decreasing. We need to ensure that there are deliberate initiatives, approaches and tactics to reduce it. Australia’s pay gap sits at 23 per cent, with men earning, on average, over $26,000 a year more than women. Sixty-nine per cent of men are employed full time, compared

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