Women on Australian Government Boards Report 2008-2009
- Foreword by the Minister for the Status of Women
- Executive Summary
- Gender Snapshot as at 30 June 2009
- Australian Government Boards and Bodies
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Boards / Bodies||Positions||Women|
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry||32||182||59||32.4%|
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy||6||44||12||27.3%|
|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%|
|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%|
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.
|Boards / Bodies||Appointees|
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry||34||248|
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy||7||57|
|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|
|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|
- New Appointments
- Method of Appointment
- Range of Australian Government Influence
- New Boards and Bodies
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.
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry||248||72||29.0%|
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy||57||15||26.3%|
|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%|
|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%|
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.
Role on Australian Government Board
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.
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry||93||36||38.7%|
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy||12||3||25.0%|
|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%|
|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%|
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.
Role on Australian Government Board
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
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
|Level of Australian Government Influence||Total||%
|Total Commonwealth Control||699||268||38.3%|
|No Commonwealth Influence||92||32||34.8%|
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.
|Boards / Bodies||Positions||Women|
|Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry||5||48||17||35.4%|
|Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy||1||3||0||0.0%|
|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%|