In virtually all sectors of the paid workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership positions. For example in 2017-18, women comprised 59% of all Commonwealth Public Service employees (State of the Service Report 2017-18) but according to the Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards 2017-18 report, 45.8% of all board positions relating to federal government portfolios are filled by women, still short of the announced 50% target announced in 2016.

The statistics in corporate Australia are even more concerning. The Australian Institute of Company Directors reports that the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 29.5% (31 March 2019). The percentage of women on boards of ASX 200 companies and the proportion of women comprising new appointments increased significantly from a low base of 8.3% in 2009. A total of 28 boards in the ASX 300 still do not have any women.

The disparity between men and women in leadership roles perpetuates existing stereotypes about the role of women, both at work and in wider society, and exacerbates disadvantages for women.

The Australian Parliamentary Library Composition of the 45th Parliament report shows that in 2019, the number of women in the House of Representatives has risen to 45 (30%). Women make up 30 (39.5%) of the members of the Senate. Overall the number of women in Parliament has risen to 75 (33.2%).

Australian women are active participants in all areas of public life. Our political decision making bodies should reflect this by women being at least 50% of members of parliament. One practical strategy is parties supporting and nominating an equal number of male and female candidates at elections and alternating Senate candidates by sex below the line on the Senate ballot paper.


WEL Priorities 2019 - 2022

1. That Australian Government Boards have 50% women within three years.

2. A minimum gender equality target should be set in the Senior Executive Service in the Australian Public Service, publicly announced and reported on annually.

3. A minimum of 50% representation of each sex on all publicly listed Boards in Australia should be promoted as a goal to be achieved over five years. If this is not achieved, the Australian Government should legislate to require publicly listed companies and other large employers to achieve a mandatory minimum of 40% of each sex within a specified timeframe, failing which penalties will be imposed.

4. National political parties should alternate male and female candidates below the line on the Senate ballot paper to achieve a goal of 50% representation of women in federal parliament. 

(from WEL's 2019 Federal Election Priorities document and pre-election Scorecard)