Glass ceiling shattered by community welfare boards

The community welfare sector will today be hailed as a leader in promoting women to boards and senior management positions.

The finding will be made by a gender audit of Australia's not-for-profit community sector.

The survey team says the results should not be surprising given women make up about 85 per cent of the community sector's workforce.

Many organisations who took part in the survey supported the introduction of mandatory quotas.

The audit is a collaboration of the Australian Council of Social Service, YWCA Australia and Women on Boards. An advance copy of the report says women occupy 51 per cent of all board directors and 60 per cent of senior management positions in the community sector.

''Clearly there is a good news story here - our sector is doing much better than others,'' YWCA executive director Caroline Lambert said.

''With such an overwhelming female presence, it's reasonable to expect that the sector should in fact be doing a lot better in terms of women in leadership positions.

''For example, only 31 per cent of the organisations reported female treasurers.

''It's also concerning that women are over-represented on the boards of smaller organisations but overtaken by men in organisations with turnovers of $30 million or more.''

Writing in today's The Canberra Times, the survey team - Ms Lambert, Cassandra Goldie from ACOSS and Ruth Medd from Women on Boards - say the United Nations has been calling on governments to strengthen women's leadership.

''Our report found that within the community sector, more survey respondents supported the introduction of mandatory quotas than respondents who didn't,'' they say.

Norway was a leading example of successful mandatory quotas and, according to a 2011 study, has doubled the percentage of women on boards compared to 11 countries examined when they introduced their quota for boards.

They point out women hold key positions in Australia, such as Prime Minister and Governor-General.

''Unfortunately, these breakthroughs enhance the paradoxical reality for many working women: the statistics tell us that leadership positions for most women remain a distant reality,'' they say.

''While our report shows that women are doing better in the community sector than in other sectors, we are conscious that they do so at a time when the healthcare and social-assistance sector, which includes the community sector, has the largest gender pay gap of any industry in Australia, at 32.6 per cent. ''A key finding of our report is that participation of women in the workforce does not automatically lead to equality of opportunity for women,'' they say.

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