Department of Family and Community Services

Key findings

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The number of women standing as candidates for local government elections has risen at every election in NSW since 1991, and the 2012 elections were no exception. In 2012, 34 percent of candidates for local government were women, compared to 33 percent in 2008 and 23 percent in 1991.

Although more women are standing for election, this is not reflected in the number of women elected as local government councillors. The proportion of women councillors has not changed since 1999, when it was 26 percent, apart from a small rise to 27 percent in 2008.

The number of female Members of Parliament in the NSW Legislative Assembly has been falling in recent years. At the time of writing in 2013, the percentage of seats held by women in the NSW Legislative Assembly is 20 percent. This is lower than ten years ago, in 2003, when it was 23 percent.

Women’s leadership in the public sector has remained fairly static over the last ten years. The percentage of NSW Government board positions held by women hovered at around 36 to 37 percent between 2002 and 2010, and rose by one percentage point, to 38 percent, in 2011, where it remained at the end of 2012. Women’s representation in the Senior Executive Service is also rising slowly, from 22 percent in 2002 to 26 percent in 2012.

Women leaders are most underrepresented in the corporate sphere, where only 18 percent of directorships of NSW-based ASX 200 companies are held by women. The figures are worse amongst NSW-based ASX 500 companies, where 12 percent of board directors are women, and 10 percent of senior executives are women.

The community sector is performing best in terms of women’s leadership. A recent YWCA survey of community organisations concluded that women comprised 51 percent of board directors amongst NSW respondent organisations, and 59 percent of senior managers. Elsewhere in the community sector, however, amongst State Sporting Organisations, women leaders in 2011 were still underrepresented, filling only 29 percent of directorships and 24 percent of chief executive officer positions.

Turning now to specific professions, we find there has been almost no change in women’s leadership in the law since we reported on this indicator in Women in NSW 2012, apart from a rise of one percentage point, to 20 percent, in the proportion of barristers who are women.

By contrast, in NSW Government primary schools, as in secondary schools, the proportion of female principals rose by two percentage points in the 12 months to June 2012. Women now make up 56 percent of primary school principals and 38 percent of secondary school principals. This is still low when compared to their representation amongst total teaching staff, but is steadily increasing.

Women are well-represented as leaders in NSW Technical and Further Education (TAFE NSW) Institutes. In fact, this is the only area examined in this chapter where the percentage of women leaders is higher than the percentage of women amongst general (teaching) staff. In the six years to June 2012, women’s share of leadership positions increased from 43 to 57 percent, while the proportion of female TAFE teachers grew from 44 to 47 percent.

In NSW universities in 2011, women made up just over one quarter (28 percent) of senior academics (above senior lecturer level), while they account for 44 percent of all academics.

This year we also examine the data available on Aboriginal women’s leadership in NSW. Although the numbers are very small, and much remains unknown, the data available suggests that the leadership gender gap between Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men is smaller than it is within the general NSW population.