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Over the last month VM Learning have been reporting on the decreasing rate of female representation on Australia’s government boards and this week is no different, with both the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times announcing our current government is the sixth worst in the world for gender balance.

Both newspapers have cited a recent report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which revealed that the gap between women and men in ministerial positions in Australia has actually worsened since 2012, despite the targets set in place by previous government policy.

Furthermore, the report claimed that Australia now has fewer women in its highest ranks of government than every OECD country except for Greece, Korea, Turkey, Hungary and Slovakia. Even the two countries the OECD are currently considering to join its organisation- Latvia and Columbia-have far higher female representation within their government, as shown by the graph below.

 

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So why do these statistics matter? Surely the most important thing is appointing the right candidates for the job, rather than appointing parliament members based on gender?

However the OECD argues that this is precisely why these statistics do matter. In a statement made within their report, OECD claimed that a more representative public administration provides the administration with access to “previously overlooked” knowledge and perspectives.

Meanwhile there are multiple studies indicating that companies with more women on their boards out perform non-diverse companies in regards to productivity, employee morale and overall business performance. In fact The Credit Suisse Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management report released last year, showed that from the beginning of 2012 to mid-way through 2014, companies with at least one woman on their board outperformed non-diverse companies by 5%.

This doesn’t mean that women are the superior gender, or better for leadership roles because they are women. However what it does indicate is that a board with an equal representation of both genders is going to make better decisions, as it allows all views and opinions to be brought to the table.

You can’t help but think, if having a gender balanced board of directors does such positive work for an organisation, what would be the implications for a gender balanced government?

Tanja Kovac, the national co-convenor of Emily’s List and Sophie Mirabella, a former liberal frontbencher, want to find out. Both women have made it known publicly of their drive to have more women in politics. Mirabella was the first woman to sign the Melbourne Declaration on Women’s Participation in Australian politics. This declaration pledged to commit to the ambition that 40 per cent (at a minimum) of party official, parliamentarian, ministerial and shadow ministerial appointments across all political parties and parliaments are women over the next two candidate selection cycles or by 2020, whichever is sooner.  Meanwhile Kovac has taken this pledge further and is seeking rule changes to increase Labor women’s representation to 50 per cent by 2020.

The release of the OECD report is timely as an announcement made by independent senator Nick Xenophon on introducing a bill seeking to legislate 40 per cent representation of women on government boards, was only made last week. These stats, as well as the motions made by both Mirabella and Kovac, my be just the support Xenophon needs to put the necessary pressure on parliament to pass this bill.