Guest Article - Launch of OnBoardWA

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Most of us are all too familiar with the statistics that relate to women in leadership.

As the Minister for Women’s Interests, I am acutely aware that despite the many advances that have been made towards gender equality, women and girls continue to experience inequality and discrimination in many parts of their lives.

The numbers of women in leadership are reflective of this enduring inequality. We know for example that on a global scale, Australia has gone backwards in its gender equality ranking, from an index ranking of 15 in 2006 to a ranking of 46 in 2016.

According to the World Economic Forum, this fall is largely due to the persistent gender gap in income. Nowhere in Australia is this more evident than in Western Australia.

With a gap in earnings between men and women of 24 per cent, Western Australia has the worst gender pay gap in the nation - well behind other states and jurisdictions that average around 16 per cent.

Only 25 per cent of board directors nationwide are women. And they are overwhelmingly represented on boards in the community and health sectors.

Women’s economic independence is fundamental to gender equality. But gender equality delivers far broader benefits. Having diversity around the boardroom table ensures that a range of different thought is captured in decision-making. It also better reflects the customers and communities that boards represent.

In fact, research shows that boards with diverse representation are actually better at managing times of crisis. For example, boards that had women on them during the financial crisis fared better than those that did not.

As a new government we are determined to be a driver of change.

We are done talking about the inequality. It’s 2017 and we are going to do something about it. We will start by driving the achievement of 50:50 representation of women on our public sector boards. We are also determined to increase the proportion of women appointed to senior executive positions in the public sector.

Why aren’t there more women on boards? There are several reasons but generally speaking, when CEOs or board chairs are asked why this was the case, the answer is invariably “we’d like to have more women on our board, but we don’t know where to find them”.

To address this, we recently launched a website called OnBoardWA – a register for interested individuals, especially women, to put themselves forward for roles on a Government board, committee or advisory body. It’s about creating a pool of women which CEOs and boards can draw from.

We are looking more closely at our boards to ensure that gender equity is achieved but we can’t do this alone. I’m calling on you to support this initiative by ensuring that worthy candidates for board roles, put their names into the register. And that includes you.

If we do the work, we can achieve a fundamental shift in gender inequality on our governing boards, and OnBoardWA is a key tool in getting us there.

We are on the right path, but we still have a way to go. We need to work together, across sectors and across issues, to achieve the change that we know is needed.

The Hon. Simone McGurk MLA, Minister for Women’s Interests


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