This paper is the latest in a number of publications by the NSW
Parliamentary Library concerning women in parliament. Where relevant, it
updates the previous papers but does not revisit in detail many of the issues
dealt with earlier, such as the barriers preventing greater entry of women into
politics, the various strategies available for improving the descriptive
representation of women, and media portrayal of female politicians. The scope
of this paper is broader than earlier papers in that it also considers women in
positions of leadership within the public sector and those serving on
government boards and committees. The debate surrounding the use of quotas to
improve gender equality in the composition of boards and committees is briefly
discussed in this context.
Section two (pp 4-10) of this paper provides an updated timeline of
significant milestones and some of the major advances toward the more equal
participation of women in parliament.
There are currently 34 female Members of the NSW Parliament. A statistical
overview of women currently serving as Members of Parliament in NSW and in
other parliaments throughout Australia may be found in section three (pp
11-19). Information is also provided on female Ministers and female office
holders within the NSW and Commonwealth parliaments. Australia is currently
ranked 38th in the world in terms of the proportion of members of
the lower house of the national parliament that are women (falling from
33rd in 2007). A table showing the top 38 rankings and the
proportion of female members of each parliament, together with the 2007
results, is also located in section three.
Section four (pp 20-21) of this paper considers leadership within the
public sector. The public sector in NSW is the largest employer of women in NSW
and it has more female than male employees. However, this does not translate to
senior positions within the public service where the majority of positions are
held by men. A brief overview of the Commonwealth public sector is also
presented in this section.
The issue of the imbalance in the gender composition of government boards
and committees has received attention of late, with various governments
announcing strategies to improve the number of women serving as board and
committee members. Information on this issue in NSW and at the Commonwealth
level is provided in section five (pp 22-26).