Women on Australian Government Boards Report 2008-2009

Table of contents

Foreword by the Minister for the Status of Women 

I am pleased to share with you the 2009 Women on Australian Government Boards Report.

Government boards (and private sector boards) are stronger when they represent our community as a whole.

Women represented 33.4 per cent of sitting members on Government Boards on 30 June 2009.  Across the 2008-09 reporting period, women made up 36.8 per cent of all new appointments. This data cannot be directly compared to previous years, but aligns similarly to former reports.  

Government boards and bodies lead the way when compared to private sector boards. The percentage of women who occupy directorships in companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange stands at only 8.3 per cent.

Several Australian Government departments are making excellent advances. Women held 57.3 per cent of all positions in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship;55.3 per cent of all positions in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; and, 40 per cent of all positions in the Department of Health and Ageing.

There is plenty of evidence - in research and in experience - that diversity in board members’ backgrounds, skills and experience improves board effectiveness. It is now widely accepted that the diverse knowledge and expertise of women enhances the success of boards and committees.  Having women on boards has been shown to improve the financial performance of organisations, and contribute to the effectiveness of decisions and policies.

The Australian Government is committed to increased transparency of reporting of women on Australian Government boards and decision making bodies.  This is the first year that the gender analysis of women on our boards has been released in full.

I hope that this report will encourage and challenge us all to seek out the best applicants for the boards that govern the provision of services to all Australians.

Finding and promoting the most talented and suitable applicants will ensure a more equal balance of women and men in management and the board room.

 

Tanya Plibersek, MP
Minister for the Status of Women

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Executive Summary 

The Australian Government is committed to promoting and supporting women’s leadership in all aspects of society, including in its appointments to advisory boards and bodies. Women’s representation is critical to good governance, quality decision making and effective government.

The Women on Australian Government Boards Report 2008-09 is compiled by the Office for Women in collaboration with all Australian Government departments. Data is drawn from information entered by departments in the online GovBoards reporting system.

The Report covers the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 and is a statistical analysis of women’s representation on 529 boards and bodies, across all Australian Government portfolios.

Reporting parameters have been changed since previous reports to introduce rigor and comparability between departments (reporting parameters are outlined on page 6).

It should be noted that changes in the reporting parameters during 2008 -09 and the large scale Machinery of Government changes following the 2007 Election prevented the development of a report for the 2007-08 financial year.  The changes have also inhibited the ability to make robust comparison with previous years.

As a snapshot, the total percentage of female sitting members on 477 identified Australian Government boards and bodies as at 30 June 2009 stands at 33.4 per cent.  Across the
2008-09 reporting period, women made up 36.8 per cent of all new appointments to identified Australian Government boards and bodies. 

Comparisons between portfolios must be considered within the wide range of numbers of boards and positions across portfolios, for example the Department of Human Services has two identified bodies comprising twelve appointees whilst the Department of Health and Ageing has 66 bodies and 1102 sitting members.

A comparison by gender between all sitting members and new appointments within departments shows that nine of sixteen departments sampled are making gains in the representation of women, some of them significant gains.

Women hold a fifth of the total Chair and Deputy Chair positions (20.3 per cent).

57 new bodies were established across twelve portfolios during 2008-09.  A total of 641 appointments were made to those bodies and 32.5 per cent of these appointees were women. 

There has been strong commitment from some Ministers and significant advances in the new appointments of women in some portfolios.

It is also important to note that appointments to Australian Government boards and bodies are often for a three-year term, and re-appointments for a further three years are not uncommon. Therefore any changes to overall figures are likely to be gradual.

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Introduction 

The Women on Australian Government Boards Report is an annual whole-of-government status report on the level of women’s representation to a range of key Australian Government boards and bodies. 

Information in the Women on Australian Government Boards Report 2008-09 represents appointments prior to the current public debate on the application of targets and quotas to public and private sector boards.  Any impact on the diversity of new appointments resulting from this is likely to be represented in the 2009-10 figures.

Current Environment

The 2008-09 Report was compiled in a climate of significantly increased media and public attention on the need to increase the representation of women in senior decision-making bodies across all sectors.  A major driver for change in this area has arisen from reports that female board directorships in the private sector declined from 8.7 per cent in 2006 to 8.3 per cent in 2008.

This issue has also gained significant momentum through recent activities and statements by several high profile organisations and individuals, including:

  • The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Corporate Government Council has initiated activities to boost female membership on the boards and in the senior ranks of leading private sector companies;
  • The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has implemented a suite of initiatives to address the gender imbalance on private sector boards, including calling on companies to set voluntary gender diversity targets;
  • The Business Council of Australia has announced a pilot program to boost the numbers of female CEOs and CFOs in the ASX Top 200 companies; and
  • Several submissions to the Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act addressed the issue of whether targets or quotas should be set.

The Government has responded by asking all departments to pay greater attention to ensuring women candidates are considered for all appointments to Australian Government boards and bodies. 

At the October 2009 Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers' Conference on the Status of Women (MINCO), Ministers welcomed the attention to address and improve the representation of women on government, private and community boards, noting the inadequate performance of the private sector in promoting women to their boards and senior leadership positions.  Women’s Ministers will work together to explore a variety of solutions to improve the representation of women on boards during 2010.

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Reporting Parameters

During 2008-09, the Office for Women clarified and tightened reporting parameters to ensure that cross-portfolio comparisons of performance in appointing women would be reasonable, valid and accurate.  As a result, it is difficult to make a valid comparison of portfolio performances with previous years, although some comparisons have been made to 2006-07 data.

The Women on Australian Government Boards Report 2008-09 provides information relating to all appointments to the following Australian Government boards and bodies:

  • Bodies covered by the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act);
  • Ministerial Advisory Committees;
  • Review committees where appointments are made by Cabinet; and
  • Statutory authorities not covered by the Public Service Act 1999 (includes most Tribunals).

Due to large scale Machinery of Government changes in December 2007, it was not possible to develop meaningful statistics or compare appointment information across all portfolios for 2007-08 and there is therefore no report for this period.

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Government Boards Reporting System

Statistical information used in the annual Women on Australian Government Boards Report is collected from data held in the Government Boards Reporting System, a web-based appointments monitoring system, administered by the Office for Women within the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

The Government Boards Reporting System records the details of identified Government boards or bodies, all appointments to these, and the details of each appointee.

Each participating department has registered departmental officers who are responsible for lodging the details of each new board and appointment, and ensuring their Government Boards Reporting System data is up to date.

Data is collected under four categories:

  • Australian Government control - Where the Australian Government is solely responsible for the selection and appointment processes. Appointments can be made by portfolios, Ministers or the Governor-General. 
  • Australian Government influence - Where there is some Government influence on selection and appointment processes.  Appointments to these boards can be made on the basis of a recommendation of a selection panel, through nomination by an external organisation or by Election. 
  • No Australian Government control - Where the Australian Government has no control over selection and appointment processes.  Membership is often determined by Election. 
  • Unclassified/Ex-Officio - Where legislation requires a person holding a particular position to be appointed to a particular board. These appointments are technically within Australian Government control but the Australian Government does not have the ability to affect the outcome.

Individual departments are responsible for deciding which bodies may fit reporting parameters and which categories they apply to their own portfolio boards and bodies.

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Merit and Transparency

On 5 February 2008, Senator the Hon John Faulkner (the then Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State) announced new arrangements for merit and transparency in senior public service appointments.

These arrangements, which met an Election commitment, also apply where a board is responsible for appointments.  The arrangements apply to agency heads - other than departmental secretaries - and statutory offices working within or closely with APS agencies. 

Details are available on the Australian Public Service Commission website.

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Gender Snapshot as at 30 June 2009 

As at the 30 June 2009, women represented 33.4 per cent of sitting members on 477 identified Australian Government boards and bodies.  Whilst statistically valid comparisons between the data in this reporting period and the 2007-08 period are difficult (see page 5), it is clear that the overall figures for women’s representation still hover between 33 per cent and 34 per cent.

Table 1:  Snapshot: Representation of women on Australian Government Boards and Bodies as at 30 June 2009

Department
Total %
Women
Boards / Bodies Positions Women
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 32 182 59 32.4%
Attorney-General’s 41 492 138 28.0%
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 6 44 12 27.3%
Climate Change 1 1 0 0.00%
Defence 11 77 19 24.7%
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 23 191 61 31.9%
Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 62 427 136 31.9%
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 18 321 178 55.3%
Finance and Deregulation 16 81 20 24.7%
Foreign Affairs and Trade 14 123 30 24.4%
Health and Ageing 61 623 249 40.0%
Human Services 1 6 2 33.3%
Immigration and Citizenship  6 227 130 57.3%
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government 65 137 26 19.0%
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research 50 512 137 26.8%
Prime Minister and Cabinet 7 51 20 39.2%
Resources, Energy and Tourism 10 61 8 13.1%
Treasury 28 286 73 25.5%
Veterans' Affairs  25 245 68 27.8%
Total 477 4087 1366 33.4%

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Australian Government Boards and Bodies 

During the 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009 reporting period, there were 529 Australian Government boards and bodies recorded in GovBoards.  These 529 boards and bodies spanned 19 departments, with a total membership of 5,655 appointees.

A likely explanation for the difference between the total number of boards over 2008-09 and the total number of boards as at 30 June 2009 is the merger, abolition or decommissioning of several boards over the 2008-09 reporting period.

Any departmental comparisons need to be considered within the context of the wide range of boards and positions across different departments.  For example, some departments only have a small number of bodies, such as the Department of Human Services with two identified bodies totalling twelve appointees, and the Department of Climate Change which has one body with one appointee.  In contrast, the portfolio responsibilities of the Department of Health and Ageing have 66 bodies and 1102 appointees, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship managing has eight bodies and a total of 241 appointees. 

Table 2: Australian Government Boards and Bodies
Department Total
Boards / Bodies Appointees
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry  34 248
Attorney-General’s 41 578
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 7 57
Climate Change 1 1
Defence 11 77
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 23 297
Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 78 609
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 35 450
Finance and Deregulation 16 107
Foreign Affairs and Trade 18 203
Health and Ageing 66 1102
Human Services 2 12
Immigration and Citizenship 8 241
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government 65 172
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research 50 634
Prime Minister and Cabinet 7 63
Resources, Energy and Tourism 10 71
Treasury 30 399
Veterans' Affairs 27 334
Total 529 5655

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Membership 

Women held 33.4 per cent of the 5,655 positions within the 529 Australian Government boards and bodies.  During the 2008-09 reporting period, women represented over half the membership of boards and bodies in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.  These agencies have dominated the tables for several years and their statistics across the reporting period are significantly higher than that of other departments.

Table 3:  Membership of Boards and Bodies by Women
Department Total % Women
Positions Women
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 248 72 29.0%
Attorney-General`s 578 167 28.9%
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 57 15 26.3%
Climate Change 1 0 0%
Defence 77 19 24.7%
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 297 100 33.7%
Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 609 207 34.0%
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 450 242 53.8%
Finance and Deregulation 107 24 22.4%
Foreign Affairs and Trade 203 47 23.2%
Health and Ageing 1102 423 38.4%
Human Services 12 4 33.3%
Immigration and Citizenship 241 137 56.8%
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government 172 43 25.0%
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research 634 163 25.7%
Prime Minister and Cabinet 63 23 36.5%
Resources, Energy and Tourism 71 8 11.3%
Treasury 399 102 25.6%
Veterans' Affairs 334 91 27.2%
TOTAL 5655 1887 33.4%

Roles

Women held 20.3 per cent of Chair and Deputy Chair positions on the 529 Australian Government boards and bodies reported on in the 2008-09 reporting period.

Table 4:  Roles of women on boards and bodies

Role on Australian Government Board
Total %
Women
Positions Women
Chair 519 90 17.3%
Deputy Chair 152 46 30.3%
Ex Officio 212 66 31.1%
Member 4754 1679 35.3%
Other 18 6 33.3%
Total 5655 1887 33.4%

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New Appointments

Whilst rigorous comparison across years is not possible, the overall figures and placement in the tables are similar enough across the 2006-07 results to allow some general discussion.

1287 new appointments were made across 529 Australian Government boards and bodies from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.  36.8 per cent of these new appointments were made to women, which represents a slight increase from the 2006-07 figure of 36.5 per cent.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs both averaged over 50 per cent of new appointees going to women during the period.

The Department of Defence significantly increased the level of diversity on their boards and bodies by women holding 60.0 per cent of new appointments (12 out of 20).  In 2006-07, the Department of Defence did not appoint any women.

Of the agencies that report more than five identified bodies, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade appointed 15 per cent or less women for their new appointments.  These are all sectors that have had low participation by women so the traditional recruitment pool is likely to be male dominated.

Table 5 contrasts the data on new appointments with the data across the reporting period to provide some measure of progress on increasing diversity.

Table 5: Representation of women in new appointments

Department
Total  %  Women
Positions Women
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry 93 36 38.7%
Attorney-General’s 106 44 41.5%
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 12 3 25.0%
Climate Change 1 0 0.0%
Defence 20 12 60.0%
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 46 20 43.5%
Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 76 30 39.5%
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 170 93 54.7%
Finance and Deregulation 23 5 21.7%
Foreign Affairs and Trade 20 2 10.0%
Health and Ageing 228 98 43.0%
Human Services 1 0 0.0%
Immigration and Citizenship 25 14 56.0%
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government 8 1 12.5%
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research 274 75 27.4%
Prime Minister and Cabinet 9 2 22.2%
Resources, Energy and Tourism 40 6 15.0%
Treasury 71 18 25.4%
Veterans' Affairs 64 15 23.4%
Total 1287 474 36.8%

Of the 1287 new appointments made to the 529 Australian Government boards and bodies between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009, 19.2 per cent of new appointments to Chair and Deputy Chair were filled by women.  This is slightly less than the 20.3 per cent overall representation of women as Chairs and Deputy Chairs for the same period, with relatively more women represented in Ex Officio and Member positions.

Table 6:  Roles held by newly appointed women

Role on Australian Government Board
Total %
Women
Positions Women
Chair 109 19 17.4%
Deputy Chair 21 6 28.6%
Ex Officio 41 16 39.0%
Member 1107 430 38.8%
Other 9 3 33.3%
Total 1287 474 36.8%

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Method of New Appointment

Of the 474 new female appointees in 2008-09, 56 per cent were appointed by Ministerial or Cabinet decision.

Figure 1: Method of Appointing Female Members

Figure 1: Method of Appointing Female Members


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Range of Australian Government influence

The Australian Government controlled the majority of new appointments in 2008-09 at 54 per cent, with only seven percent of new appointments made in circumstances where the Australian Government had no influence.

Where the Australian Government had total control over the appointment, women represented 38.3 per cent of appointments, and where it had some influence, 34.4 per cent of appointees were women.  Where the Government had no influence, women fared slightly better than where there was partial influence, at 34.8 per cent.

Figure 2: New appointments by range of Australian Government influence

Figure 2: New appointments by range of Australian Government influence


Table 7:   Range of Australian Government influence over new appointments of women
Level of Australian Government Influence Total %
Women
Appointments Women
Total Commonwealth Control 699 268 38.3%
Commonwealth Influence 477 164 34.4%
No Commonwealth Influence 92 32 34.8%
Unclassified/Ex-Officio 20 11 55.0%
Total 1287 474 36.8%

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New Boards and Bodies

Fifty seven new boards and bodies were established across twelve portfolios during 2008-09.  A total of 631 appointments were made to these new bodies, of which women represented 32.5 per cent.

Exceptions to this pattern is the new Australian Multicultural Advisory Council under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, on which women represent 62.5 per cent of the total 16 new membership appointments, and the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, which has women representing 50 per cent of appointees to its two new Arts bodies.  Nearly half of appointments made to the five new bodies in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs were women.

Table 8: New Boards and Bodies – Appointments by Gender

Department
Total % Women
Boards / Bodies Positions Women
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry  5 48 17 35.4%
Attorney-General’s 1 17 7 41.2%
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 1 3 0 0.0%
Climate Change 1 1 0 0.0%
Defence 1 7 1 14.3%
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 1 14 5 35.7%
Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2 16 8 50.0%
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 5 41 20 48.8%
Health and Ageing 19 235 89 37.9%
Immigration and Citizenship 1 16 10 62.5%
Innovation, Industry, Science and Research 17 202 45 22.3%
Resources, Energy and Tourism 3 31 3 9.7%
Total 57 631 205 32.5%

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Content Updated: 21 August 2013