Gender representation in politics and research leadership

By August 4, 2018Politics

In October I am travelling to Chile to take part in the periodic review of Government funded research centres.  Commendably, they invite a global perspective on their performance by constituting an International Panel to review their Centres; being part of this Panel is one of the more stimulating roles I have.

One of the more interesting angles I like to explore is the gender balance within research teams, but there is little comparative data available.  A complementary measure is to look at the parliamentary representation of women.  In Chile the female representation is 16% (despite happily electing a female President – Michelle Bachelet served two terms between 2006 and 2018).

In Australia’s House of Representatives, women hold slightly over a quarter of the seats (28%) but higher in the Senate (almost 40%).  Representation, however, is uneven across political parties, with women in the centre-left Labor Party representing double the number on the conservative side of politics (but this reflects a Labor policy of promoting quotas).

A recent Economist magazine (28 July 2018) provided an interesting table of representation across the Americas (regrettably omitting Canada, which scores only 25%, the world average).

For representativeness, cultural mix is as important, if not more so, than gender. In countries like Australia, with a high proportion of the population born overseas, representation fails to reflect our multicultural mix, and this holds true across most areas of leadership such as corporate Australia.

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