Statement by Australia’s Head of Delegation, Dr Sharman Stone

Statement by Australia’s Head of Delegation, Dr Sharman Stone

Office for Women International Forums APEC Women and the Economic Forum (WEF) Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Friday, 07 September 2018

Australia’s Head of Delegation, Dr Sharman Stone - APEC Women and the Economy Forum

Dr Sharman Stone at the APEC Women and Economy Forum, 2018

Thank you Mr Chair, Distinguished Delegates and Heads of Delegation.

On Wednesday afternoon I had the privilege of speaking at the University of Papua New Guinea as part of their APEC Discussion Series, the seventh panel in this series, and I want to congratulate Papua New Guinea on this excellent initiative.

Just like today, the theme of that University of Papua New Guinea discussion was women in leadership – a topic close to my heart, both in my role as Ambassador for Women and Girls, and as a former Member of Parliament and Minister in Australia.

Women in Australia have always fought hard for their rights.

From the right to vote, to the right to be elected into parliament.

And from the right to equal pay, to the right for equal opportunity.

Predominately, it has been women fighting for women’s rights—trying to convince men in positions of power to change laws.

But it is the responsibility of all Australians – of all our collective APEC economies – to change laws, and change attitudes, because everyone benefits.

These are issues that Liz Broderick, during her time previously as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, passionately worked hard to address.

Earlier this week at the Symposium, some of you may have heard Liz speak about Australia’s Male Champions of Change program.

Male Champions of Change is a program encouraging male CEO’s of big business stepping up beside women to help achieve equality faster.  It activates peer groups of influential male leaders to drive the adoption of actions across the private sector and government to increase the number of women in leadership positions.

At last count, women held an impressive 44.5 per cent of Australian Government board positions, the highest since public reporting began in 2011 and well on track to achieve our ambitious – but achievable – target of women holding 50 percent of Government board positions.

Women also now make up half of all Australian Public Service Secretaries.

In the Australian Parliament, eleven women hold Ministry positions, and six hold Cabinet positions.

In the private sector, women now make up a record 27.9 per cent of Australian Stock Exchange 200 directorships, and have comprised 48.6 per cent of new appointments to ASX 200 boards.

It is wonderful that the numbers are tracking in the right direction. But we must chase change at a faster rate than in the past – not just in Australia, but in all APEC economies.

I am pleased that today we are speaking about leadership as a critical enabler to empowerment – supporting women is their social, economic and political lives has an influence on personal income and national productivity and growth.

In Australia, we know that to get women into leadership positions, we need to get the supports right.

Government policies are aimed at supporting more women into work to improve their economic security today, and help them accumulate retirement savings for the future.

Measures like ensuring affordable, accessible and flexible child care is critical.

So is providing financial incentives to work.

But there can be other obstacles – such as family and domestic violence – that can also impact on women participating socially, economically or politically.

This is especially the case for older women.

That is why Australia has invested heavily in ensuring women and their children are safe from violence, supported by strong legislation and robust frontline support and services.

This brings me to my question to our group today – what are some of the ways other APEC economies are creating enabling environments to empower women into the economy and leadership positons – and what more can we be doing collectively?

Thank you.