Board Target Gender Balance Plan

Updated July 2013

General Information

Gender Balance Target

In 2010 the Australian Government committed to achieve a target of a minimum of 40 per cent women and 40 per cent men on Australian Government boards by 2015. The remaining 20 per cent can be either women or men.

Progress towards the gender balance target is reported in the Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report. The Report gives annual sex-disaggregated data on Government board appointments, which is measured at the portfolio level.

Board Target Gender Balance Plan

Portfolios that do not reach the gender balance target in any given year are required to develop a Board Target Gender Balance Plan (the Plan) for the coming year. The Plan is designed to assist portfolios to identify the portfolio specific issues and challenges faced in reaching the target, and commit to targeted actions to overcome them.

The Board Target Gender Balance Plan is underpinned by the three principles of gender balance in public appointments:

Developing your Plan

The Office for Women has provided portfolios with a document titled Information for Portfolios – Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards. The information document contains a comprehensive list of ideas and actions portfolios could draw upon to develop portfolio specific strategies to include in your Plan. The Information document also provides a list of additional resources that may be of assistance.

If you require assistance developing your Plan, please contact the Office for Women at, or Beth Hall on 02 6146 1882.

Portfolio specific information contained within this Plan will not be made public, however aggregated information and data may be used in public reports.

Submitting your Board Target Gender Balance Plan

Portfolio Ministers are required to write to the Minister for the Status of Women and provide a copy of their completed portfolio Board Target Gender Balance Plan and signed Ministerial Statement of Intent by Monday 3 December 2012. All Ministers within the portfolio should sign the Ministerial Statement of Intent. (Minister signed Dec 2012).

In order to measure the effectiveness of portfolios' proposed strategies, a follow-up Board Target Gender Balance Plan will be required in 2013 if the portfolio does not meet the target in the following year. This will provide an opportunity for portfolios to indicate the progress they have made implementing the strategies they nominated in their previous year's Plan, and improvements they have attained in the gender balance of their boards.

Part 1: Analysis

Analysing portfolio board data enables portfolios to ascertain their current situation and determine how many additional women need to be appointed to meet the gender balance target. This analysis also identifies upcoming opportunities available for appointing women to their boards.

Some portfolios are very close to reaching the target, and others have a lot of work yet to do. This analysis will assist in determining the degree of difficulty each portfolio faces in achieving the 40 per cent target. This information will be used to inform the rest of the Plan.

Action: Using the data analysis worksheet provided, undertake the analysis below by directly transferring the answers from the worksheet (using the correlating letter as indicated in brackets).

NB: This analysis only calculates some factors that affect the number of board appointments and is unable to account for events such as Machinery of Government changes. If there are expected changes please outline them in the comments section.

Situation at 30 June 2012

Situation at 30 June 2013

Future appointments

The number of positions that are expected to be vacant for new appointment between 30 June 2013 and 30 June 2014 (K): 31

What proportion of the estimated vacant positions between 30 June 2013 and 30 June 2014 need to be appointed to women to meet the 40 per cent gender balance target (M): Target already achieved


The Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio has reached the 40 per cent target, with women holding 41 per cent of board appointments at 30 June 2013.

Part 2: selection processes

Reviewing process (both board appointment formal and informal) enables portfolios to identify which processes (either internal or external) can be amended to increase opportunities for women to be nominated and appointed to their boards.

Action: Appointment processes are identified as one of the main barriers to achieving gender balance on boards. Review the appointment processes used for your portfolio boards and nominate at least one specific strategy that you think will lead to significant change that you will undertake to increase the opportunities for women to be appointed to board positions.
Example strategies include:

Please provide a timeframe for when the strategy/strategies will be implemented.

Outline strategy/strategies and timeframes for implementation

In most cases, board appointments in the foreign affairs and trade portfolio are made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Trade.  In some cases, the Chair is appointed by the Governor General.  The Secretariat for each board coordinates the list of nominees which is put to the appropriate minister after consultation with the ex-officio departmental board member.  The appointment of an appropriately balanced board can be achieved by ensuring individuals are drawn from a broad cross-section of the community while emphasising, in particular, good female candidates.

The portfolio will incorporate the following strategy:

Part 3: Engagement

Engaging with relevant sectors, whether they are industry, community, academic or government agencies, can assist portfolios in gaining insight into the relevant fields of their boards. These insights can assist portfolios to identify appropriate methods for attracting suitably qualified women to portfolio boards from other sectors.

Action: Identify at least one strategy that will have significant impact that your portfolio will undertake to engage with the relevant industry and/or sector.
Examples strategies include:

Please provide a time frame for when the strategy/strategies will be implemented.

Outline strategy/strategies and timeframes for implementation

The portfolio’s boards already engage extensively with relevant sectors.  Due to the nature of a board’s business, some board members will need specific expertise.  Each board secretariat will develop gender specific strategies to develop appropriate methods for attracting women to the board from other relevant sectors. 

This will be achieved by:

Part 4: Portfolio specific barriers

The circumstances for each portfolio vary considerably, as can the barriers faced in meeting the gender balance target. By identifying the specific portfolio barriers, strategies can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the portfolio.

Please provide a timeframe for when the strategy/strategies will be implemented.

Action: Review any other barriers within your portfolio that are impacting on your portfolio's progress in meeting the gender balance target (be as high-level or specific as you like).

Outline issues and barriers

As advisory boards are drawn from business, academia and think tanks, the shortage of women in business means that boards can be skewed, i.e. men from business, women from education and not for profit organisations.  This is certainly the case on several boards across the portfolio, e.g. in the mining industry where Australia’s strongest links with Latin America (and our Council on Australia Latin America Relations board) lie.

These barriers will be reviewed by:

Part 5: Portfolio specific strategies

As the issues faced in meeting the target can be very specific to the particular portfolio, this section is an opportunity to identify appropriate strategies your portfolio would like to implement that aren’t captured in the other parts of the Plan.

Action: Nominate any other strategies your portfolio will undertake to assist in meeting the gender balance target.

If you are close to meeting the target (i.e. within two per cent), consider developing a gender balance target maintenance strategy.

Outline strategy/strategies and timeframes for implementation

The Gender Balance on Australian Government Boards Report 2011-12 shows the department has already reached the target gender balance on boards (at 40.4 per cent). 

This will be maintained by:

Keeping a database of previous women board members from all boards who may be eligible for reappointment.