It’s been a year of great progress for gender-balanced leadership. Here are a few highlights:

Elizabeth Broderick and Helen Conway leave lasting legacies

While it’s sad to see good people move on, we have much to celebrate in the legacies of Elizabeth Broderick and Helen Conway. Congratulations to you both.

Broderick stepped down from her role as Sex Discrimination Commissioner in September this year, and leaves a legacy that includes gaining support for paid parental leave, profiling discrimination during pregnancy, campaigning against domestic violence and creating the Male Champions of Change.

Helen Conway, as head of Workplace Gender Equality Agency, did an outstanding¬† job implementing the Agency’s new legislation, reshaping its strategic focus, raising its profile and achieving acceptance for more strategic and meaningful standards of reporting on gender at work.

Male Champions of Change groups proliferate

Broderick commenced Male Champions of Change in 2010, and the program is designed to enable men ‘to step up beside women, not speaking for them, not saving them, but actually stepping up and accepting responsibility and accountability for gender equality’. It’s a welcome disruption that shifts the focus from women to gender.

Kate Jenkins, Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner, commenced a Male Champions of Change group in Victoria, there’s one in Queensland, and industry groups covering consulting engineers, architects, elite sports and property have likewise commenced this year. We look forward to more men actively engaging in the pursuit of gender balanced leadership.

The Hollywood spotlight shines on the Gender pay gap

The gender pay gap continues. That’s not progress. But it is progress when CEOs like Benioff address pay imbalances directly, and WGEA’s In Your Hands campaign has 87 Ambassadors for equal pay. The impassioned pleas of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence to draw attention to the inequity, and the commitments of male stars like Bradley Cooper to make pay transparent and assist female co-stars to negotiate their pay,¬† help the cause. This positive fallout from the Sony hack, which exposed Hollywood pay inequities, certainly reinforces the importance of transparency.

Women excel in new fields

Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup, and responded with a rousing speech that stopped the country for longer that the horse race did.
Senator Marise Payne became Australia’s first female Minister of Defence.
Science Editor-In-Chief Marcia McNutt became the first woman to lead the US National Academy Of Sciences.

Gender Representation in Politics

Led by Senator Nick Xenophon, a private members’ Bill was introduced to Parliament to give teeth to the existing 40/40/20 government boards gender representation policy. The Parliamentary Committee concluded that ‘legislated targets for gender balance are not the best way to achieve this goal’. While the Government rejected the Bill, there are some positives. Firstly, that there was such a Bill. Secondly, the importance of targets has been confirmed, as has the value of board diversity. Thirdly, increased public debate about targets and quotas helped to challenge the myth of merit.

The Australian Labor Party achieved its 40% target for women’s representation and immediately starting pushing for 50%. The Liberal Party improved its gender balance somewhat, ending the year with five women in Cabinet. However, don’t these achievements look less laudable when we see new Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau start straight out of the blocks with 50% women in his first Cabinet? How hard is it?

With Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorini still going strong in the US pre-selections, the US Presidential election could be a two woman race – we await developments with great interest.

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