Nov 5, 2012

Gendernomics: more women needed in key policy agencies

Women are missing from some of our most important policy-making agencies, with real consequences for economic policy. Treasury, at least, is trying to improve.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Things have changed somewhat in Canberra since late 1966, when the prohibition on married women in the Australian Public Service was lifted after eight years of consideration by men. Even if, in 1973, women were still regarded primarily as breeding stock for a city in short supply of females (a famous ad to draw women to Canberra lacks only a request for good child-bearing hips), the APS in time became a feminised service: as of 2010-11, 57% of public servants were women.


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9 thoughts on “Gendernomics: more women needed in key policy agencies

  1. Mark Duffett

    It’d be interesting to know the average age of the SES, and the gender profile of recruits at the corresponding time. Is it simply a matter of change yet to completely work its way through the system?

  2. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx for this piece.

    The pipeline hypothesis was disproved for academe and I doubt that it is any truer for the APS.

  3. Liz45

    And some still question my assertion of a need to change the ingrained male supremacy dogma and actions not only in this country but everywhere? Some will even try and assert that the ‘need’ for feminism no longer applies? (Howard stated thus as I recall?).

    We have LONG way to go! I was one of those women who had to stop work (PMG Telephonist) when I got married. No longer permanent, only allowed to relieve for holidays, sick leave etc. Archaic? Women were also denied naming their husbands/partners as beneficiaries re the Superannuation, as were single men. This impacted on same sex couples of course; their super payments were just included in the ‘kitty’ after their deaths?

    And people wonder why we need to create positions against discrimination and failure to employ women? Or older Australians too! Male and female! Women in senior positions in Corporations has been addressed and a woman is working in that capacity now! Since International Women’s Day as I recall!

  4. Eva Cox

    No wonder the bastards get it so wrong. The discipline of economics (left and right)really fails to deal effectively with all those decisions that are not based on rational self interest or other distortions. How can predictions work that assume that emotions do not seriously influence decisions? The discipline is gendered because it ignores so much of what really counts and affects our decisions.

  5. Myriam Robin

    Re: Eva Cox.
    I think the discipline is gendered because of the maths. The gender disparity in high-level university mathematics is (anecdotally) greater than that in economics, and to do economics at a high level, you need advanced maths. Even in high school, girls are often discouraged from doing maths. In my view, that’s where your problem is.

  6. Mark Duffett

    Thanks, Gavin. Not even a grain of truth to the pipeline idea, then?

    FWIW given I’m batting 0 from 1, I reckon Myriam is on the money.

  7. Dogs breakfast

    Worth it just for the advert to get women to come and work in Canberra. That’s a time capsule in itself. 🙂

    Mark, of course the ‘pipeline’ issue is a factor, and a significant one. Arguing against it is flying in the face of reality. I’m interested in Gavin’s comments. I haven’t seen any study debunking the pipeline theory, but as I work in a uni and spend inordinate amounts of time reporting on and analysing staff/gender ratios, I suggest it would have been impossible to disprove, and even moreso flying in the face of reality. Universities gender profiles are back in the 70’s in the higher academic and academic management classes, and it is principally founded on two phenomena, the pipeline theory and the longevity within the profession.

    Disproved, not a chance. ‘Cast doubt on’ I could accept as possible, but still highly unlikely.

    And Bernard, are you really casting aspersions on departments that have over 45% female staff? Mate, get on a course in statistics, anything over 40% is akin to parity, and seeking anything higher for either sex cuts across merit selection. Even the women’s movement is now talking about 40/40/20, that being 40% for either sex and 20% subject to other factors, such as merit.

  8. Dogs breakfast

    “Universities gender profiles are back in the 70’s in the higher academic and academic management classes, and it is principally founded on two phenomena, the pipeline theory and the longevity within the profession.”

    Sorry, 4 phenomena, a frightening ‘boys club’ mentality, and the viciousness of the politics, which is precisely because the stakes are so small (Kissinger).

    This comment will make much more sense if my former comment gets through moderation. Cheers

  9. Gavin Moodie

    Australian higher education reached sex parity in its total number of students in 1987 but did not reach sex parity in PhDs until 19 years later in 2006. I suggest that this is inconsistent with the pipeline theory: another explanation is needed for such an extended delay in reaching sex parity in PhDs.

    In 2005 I found similar gaps in women’s share of all students, honours, PhDs and academic appointments at lecturer A, lecturer B, lecturer C and above C from 1988 to 2004. The paper is called ‘The snake that swallowed a mouse: a statistical test of the hypothesis that female senior academic staff appointments are in the pipeline’. I have only just loaded it onto my academia edu site so I doubt that it will appear in search engines yet: one would have to navigate to academia edu.

    Since then Sharon Bell and others have reached similar findings for specific fields of research. Basically, women have dominated enrolments in education, nursing and many of the humanities for years but are still to reach parity of senior academic appointments in those fields.

    This is not just a problem with academe. Women have dominated primary teaching and nursing for years but remain seriously under represented as primary school principals and charge nurses.

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