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Welcome to the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation

by | Sep 12, 2017 | The Agenda

In her role as Patron of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO commenced her speech by acknowledging with a smile that though she wished there was no need for the 50/50 Foundation to exist, she remained confident of what can be achieved.

She reminded the audience that Australia did produce some of the most progressive equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action legislation within the walls of Old Parliament House. This EEO legislation became the envy of women the world over at the time, but she pointed out that it was achieved through strength in numbers and support in powerful places.

Menna Quentin VH

British High Commissioner to Australia Menna Rawlings CMG, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO and Virginia Haussegger AM.

Dame Quentin noted that the evening was a celebration of re-focusing collective efforts, adding that it is important to take a moment to applaud hard-won achievements. While she acknowledged that the current data on gender inequality gives pause for thought, she implored: ‘let’s not lose sight of how far we’ve come, as our success gives fuel to the Foundation’s future efforts’.

Let’s not lose sight of how far we’ve come, as our success gives fuel to the Foundation’s future efforts.

While there is progress on the path to gender parity to celebrate, she argued that it remains disappointingly patchy: ‘We have been talking about improving the numbers of women in Australia’s public sector leadership for as long as I can remember’.

advisory council

Members of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation Advisory Council and Steering Committee (L to R): Emeritus Professor Meredith Edwards AM, Ms Menna Rawlings CMG, Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM, Adjunct Professor Virginia Haussegger AM, Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Professor Mark Evans, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM, Adjunct Professor Carmel Mcgregor PSM, Ms Jane Halton AO PSM, Dr Helen Sykes AM.

She stated that she was heartened to see that after last week’s announcement about a reshuffle of Government Department Secretaries, we now have eight women heading up Commonwealth Departments (out of 18 in total).

We have been talking about improving the numbers of women in Australia’s public sector leadership for as long as I can remember.

Women (who comprise more than half of the APS) now make up just over 42% of the Senior Executive Service (SES). ‘These are significant numbers, and the numbers matter’, she said.

cocos lunch

A capella group Coco’s Lunch kicked off proceedings.

But it is what is behind the numbers that matters even more: ‘Women bring a depth of wisdom and skill to public service, along with experience that cannot be underestimated’.

Women bring a depth of wisdom and skill to public service.

Dame Quentin disclosed that she was disappointed to hear that often the discussion around women and leadership centres on gender differences, as if this accounts for the poor representation of women in leadership ranks. She believed difference is not the culprit – outdated thinking is.

NSD

Foundation Advisory Council member Natasha Stott Despoja AM addresses the audience.

‘Women bring some different talents, experience and insights to the meeting table, but these differences make the talent pool deeper, richer, and the thinking broader. And goodness knows, public leadership needs that now, more than ever’.

These differences make the talent pool deeper, richer, and the thinking broader.

Remarking that ‘increasing the representation of women in public leadership and key decision making roles is not about fairness’, she went on to say that it is not about ‘equity economics’ either, despite the increasingly strong business case. ‘Rather, increasing the rate and representation of women is about future proofing our nation’.

Kings Hall

50/50 by 2030 Foundation Director Virginia Haussegger AM outlines the Foundation’s future initiatives.

‘We simply cannot expect to meet the complex challenges and global demands on our people, our organisations, and our political structures, if the myriad talents of women are not equally included at the table.’

Increasing the rate and representation of women is about future proofing our nation.

She ended by stating that ‘we need to refocus and renew our efforts. And this is what the 50/50 Foundation is setting out to do’ – with courage and optimism for the task ahead.

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