Minister for Women
Women On Boards Strategy – Update
Tuesday 8 March 2016 [5.54 p.m.]

QUESTION:  Can the minister give an update to the House on the Women on Boards Strategy?

ANSWER:  Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Braddon for her question. It is very timely on International Women’s Day. The Hodgman Liberal Government is working hard to get more women into leadership positions and to change attitudes and beliefs. Increasing the number of women on boards is an important step to reducing disadvantage and improving democratic governance. Research demonstrates a direct correlation between improved performance and financial outcomes in boards that have higher numbers of women members. The Tasmanian Government believes that equal participation by all members of society is critical to reducing disadvantage and enhancing economic growth. Management and leadership are still today commonly seen as masculine roles. Consciously or unconsciously, men are considered to be more suitable for appointment than women, even when women can demonstrate relevant or equivalent qualifications, experience and skills. Bias against women is a factor that works against the promotion and progress of women to positions of leadership. It is not just men who think men are more suited to appointments than women. Women can also share the belief that management and leadership are masculine roles. As a result, men are disproportionately chosen ahead of women for leadership roles and changing this bias means changing cemented patterns of thought for both men and women.

Research has shown the companies with a higher proportion of women in management are the companies that have the best performance and competitive edge as they are able to draw from a broader pool of talent as women bring different perspectives, new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Gender equity on boards has also shown to improve the financial bottom line, business integrity, and the corporate image. By having more women in leadership roles, we begin to change attitudes across the board with a flow-on to all aspects of society.

I am pleased to inform members of this House that significant progress has already been made as a result of our Women on Boards strategy which has the percentage of women appointed to government boards increase from 34  per cent upon coming into government to 38 per cent in just six months of release of the strategy – an overall increase of 12 per cent in six months.

There is still some way to go until 2020. However, this is a positive start, achieved in a quick time frame. The increase, which is significant in such a short period, demonstrates that change can happen when there is greater awareness of gender equity issues and where there is a concerted effort to identify suitably qualified and experienced women for appointment. This also shows that the proactive strategies of this Government are working.

One of those strategies is to break down barriers for women in applying to board positions. That is why we are partnering with the Australian Institute of Company Directors to offer scholarships. The Government is contributing up to $50 000 a year for three years towards the cost of scholarships for women to undertake training through the AICD, including the company director’s course and the foundations of directorship course. The first round of scholarships was announced in December last year with three company director scholarships and 16 foundations of directorship scholarships awarded.

The Women on Boards strategy 2015-2020 will also make our target of 50 per cent possible through promoting leadership and training opportunities on websites and through social media, using executive search firms, networking with professional and industry bodies, mentoring, as well as governance training opportunities for women. One action contained within the strategy aimed at increasing the number of women on government boards is the establishment of a member-only group on a social networking site, LinkedIn. Women will be invited to join the group to receive advice about board vacancies, information about training and development and invitations to attend networking events. The Women on Boards strategy places a much stronger emphasis and greater accountability on the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian State Service.

We know we need to do more on gender equality. Our family violence action plan and its focus on promoting gender equality and respect in relationships is another example of how we can work together to achieve positive change in this area.