Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos will establish a women’s advisory roundtable to guide the Commonwealth policy related to gender diversity and equality issues in the science and innovation sectors.
Speaking at InnovationAus.com’s Women in VC forum in Sydney, Senator Sinodinos said gender equality and diversity outcomes in Australia was a top line priority.
“That is my goal and something I want to leave as my legacy, that we really helped to make a difference for women,” Senator Sinodinos said in the speech.
One of the first government initiatives to achieve this will be establishing an expert panel of women working in the innovation, industry and science sector to review current government policies, and provide insight into future plans.
“I’ve got a number of advisory bodies within my portfolio that take a whole of government view, but I want a roundtable that’s specifically for women, of women, by women which is auditing across government the programs that we have in place to do the things that we as government say we’re trying to do,” Senator Sinodinos said.
“It’s to keep us honest and to say, ‘this is what’s working and what isn’t, and if you really want to help women then this is what you have to do’.”
It’s important for the innovation portfolio to listen to the community, and address their direct concerns, Senator Sinodinos said.
“I want to do this because the reality is that not all wisdom resides in Canberra,” he said.
“We often learn more by listening than talking. I need to listen and understand better where we as a government through our critical mass can make the biggest difference in opportunities for women in Australia, particularly in these areas.”
The advisory body will consist of female representatives from the private sector, research institutions and government including senior executives and practitioners, along with some “token blokes”.
“We need a body which in government, in my portfolio, is at the cutting edge of what government is doing to keep all of us honest,” Senator Sinodinos said.
“It has to be a voice for women in an atmosphere that they have the confidence to deliver feedback on existing initiatives and inform and design new policies and programs to nurture more successful female innovators.”
The roundtable, which will be chaired by Minister Sinodinos, will hold its first meeting in the second half of this year.
During the speech, Senator Sinodinos said he was “inspired” by the large amount of female entrepreneurs and investors in the room, and that his central goal in the role would be to improve the representation of women in STEM and tech.
“It’s improving but I’m not complacent, we have a lot more to do,” he said.
“One thing I want to be my legacy is to help instill across the economy the innovation mindset that you’ve got, of risk-taking, entrepreneurialism and having a go.
“If you do well, our country will do well. Australia is the best country in the world and with your help it can be even better.”
He said that improving this gender diversity will improve Australia’s economy and make it more competitive on the world stage.
“My conviction is that the more female entrepreneurs and investors there are, the more successful we’ll be not only at the business level but as a country,” Senator Sinodinos said.
“We cannot afford to miss out on the brainpower and imagination of half the population if we want to realise our potential.”