Australia’s top civil servant calls for ideas to increase gender diversity

By on 07/03/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Dr Martin Parkinson is secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C)

Australia’s most senior civil servant servant has called on government officials to do one thing this month to advance gender diversity.

Speaking at the International Women’s Day Breakfast hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) last week, secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) Martin Parkinson said that one of the first things he did when he took up his role in January was to have PM&C rejoin the Male Champions of Change initiative – a group of public and private sector CEOs and executive directors aiming to advance gender equality.

Addressing a group of public servants, Parkinson said that he would “be looking at what more we can do at PM&C and across the public service” to increase gender diversity, but added that “we all have a role to play in this.”

Australia’s public service should become “a more inclusive environment where it’s possible for anyone of merit to reach their full potential,” he said and suggested: “Why don’t we all commit to doing at least one thing this month that improves diversity in our own environment?”

His view was echoed by senator Michaelia Cash, Australia’s minister for the public service and women, who gave a speech about the importance of diversity and women in public administration.

She said recent statistics showed that “it will take 117 years until gender parity is a reality in Australian workplaces,” but added that she doesn’t want to wait that long.

“We need men, women, business and government all working together, taking responsibility for this change. It is a commitment that all Australians must make this International Women’s Day (8 March).

“From graduates to secretaries, everyone is in a position to affect change in your own departments.

“I urge you all to step up in your work and workplace to make the Australian public service a world leader in gender diversity.”

Cash highlighted diversity initiatives in different departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Gender Equality and Empowerment Strategy, which aims at driving progress in ending violence against women and girls; women’s economic empowerment; and women’s participation in leadership and peacebuilding; as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at the defence department which “has been developed to increase diversity in Defence to better reflect the Australian society.”

Australia had “much to be proud of” regarding gender diversity, but she added that “we need to do better.”

Australia has five female secretaries leading government departments, and  60% of federal public servants are women.

But, Cash said that “the higher you look up in leadership, the fewer women you see: Women comprise only 36% of SES Band 2s (the fourth-most senior band) and 35% of SES band 3s (the third-most senior band).

“And the number of female secretaries remains unchanged at five for the past twelve years.”

Gender equality, she added, “remains a fundamental challenge for the Australian public service as it does for most employers.”


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See also:

Research tracks gender equality among G20 officials

Report: Gender Equality among Civil Service Leaders

Report shows gender pay gap up among New Zealand’s senior government leaders

White House Hires First Transgender Staff Member


About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

One Comment

  1. Meng Foon says:

    Increasing gender diversity in public service, Non government organisations, business boards

    Can be achieved a few ways, central and local government could ensure that it shows leadership in appointing to boards and public servant work places gender diversity

    Boards should also consider this leadership and follow in the footsteps.

    The world is changing with many countries we do business with and form relationships with

    It is important to reflect the connection in your own organisations with those relationships

    If organisation don’t recognise this they will be left in the cold

    It is proven that gender diversity at all levels of organisations and firms bring richer and more robust decision making

    It is important that there a programs to encourage and train people to be ready for the positions, when they become available

    Senior board members could start a mentoring program for their organisations if they want to encourage gender diversity

    Gender diversity is not the only issue, younger people in governance roles, ethnic diversity are also important for successful boards and work places

    It would be interest study of what gender, age the Blackberry board vs the fledgling Apple board

    Thanks Meng

    Mayor of Gisborne New Zealand

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