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Statement from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins

Discrimination Sex Discrimination

Today’s News Ltd report does not accurately reflect the Australian Human Rights Commission's position on steps that we should take to improve gender balance in the workforce.

Earlier this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission made a submission to a Senate Inquiry considering this issue.

We did not recommend that quotas be put in place, rather we recommended that the Commonwealth Government should become a model industry in improving the participation of women in the workforce. One of the strategies proposed is that the Government should require contracted organisations to demonstrate efforts to improve gender balance, with an ultimate goal of reaching a 40:40:20 gender balance.

The 40:40:20 target is used by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to describe gender-balanced workplaces. It means that a gender-balanced workforce would be made up of 40% men and 40% women, with the remaining 20% unspecified to allow for flexibility.

This is not a mandatory quota. Organisations would not need to meet this gender balance target to secure Government contracts.

The recommendation simply asks for “demonstrated efforts” to improve gender balance. Many organisations are already taking proactive steps on gender equality. For example, an organisation might improve the gender balance of recruitment short lists.

There are many benefits that would come from improving the gender balance in both male- and female-dominated workforces. Gender segregation in the workforce has significant economic and social impacts on women and men.

Increasing diversity in organisations has proven benefits. By improving women’s participation in male-dominated industries we can broaden the talent pool within these industries, address skills shortages and improve the performance of organisations. Similar benefits would flow to female-dominated work forces.