Women now hold the majority of board positions in a sector where they’re not getting paid
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The excellent news it that women have cracked the 50% mark in occupying the board positions available in Australia's community sector.
The not-as-excellent news is that the one place where women can crack the majority mark is where the bulk of the board positions are unpaid.
According to an audit of community boards by YWCA Australia, Women on Boards and the Australian Council of Social Service, women now account for 51.4% of community sector board positions.
But in a sector where 85% of the workforce is female, women still do not dominate when it comes to formal office bearer positions. Just 44% of the boards surveyed had a female president, 37% a female vice president and 31% a female treasurer.
And while women are overrepresented on the boards of smaller community organisations, it's the men who once again tend to dominate in organisations where the turnover is more than $30 million.
Meanwhile, the community sector (as part of the healthcare and social services sector) still has the largest gender pay gap of any sector in the country – at 32.6%. Still, the survey authors are optimistic about change in the future, given 60% of senior managers in the sector are female. That's an incredible result compared to ABS data that shows less than 35% of managerial roles across Australia are held by women.
Caroline Lambert, executive director of the YWCA told Women's Agenda this morning that the issue of remuneration in the community sector is one that's due for a much wider debate, particularly following Fair Work Australia's decision on equal pay in the community sector earlier this year.
But when it comes to boards, she says the sector highly values the input of volunteers, as well as the value such experience can offer in creating pathways to public and private sector boards.
Lambert also saw the uptake of community board positions by young women as a positive, given it may indicate a better pipeline for larger boards in the future. The survey found that 76% of the 18 to 30 year-olds holding community board positions were female, a little lower at 68% in the 21 to 40 year-old mark.
The landmark study based on 746 responses is the first of its kind into the community sector. It's hoped future surveys can explore the actual level of work undertaken by community sector board members, particularly the difference in hours contributed by the members of boards across small, medium and large organizations.
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