Women’s panel finally named

James Riley
Editorial Director

The federal government’s women’s advisory panel on innovation has met for the first time, more than a year after the initiative was first announced.

The Industry, Innovation and Science Women’s Advisory Roundtable, compromising eight women and three men, was convened in Sydney on Tuesday.

The panel discussed current and potential department policies and how they impact women in the sector, including education and the gender pay gap.

Women’s advisory: Michaelia Cash has chaired the first meeting of the body

The members were named publicly announced for the first time this week, despite the list being finalised last September. The panel’s initial 11 members include former Western Australia chief scientist Lyn Beazley, Springboard Enterprises Australia chair Topaz Conway, Our Innovation Fund LP partner David Shein and GE Australia chief executive Max York. It is chaired by Innovation Minister Michaelia Cash.

The first meeting focused on issues women face in the private, research and startup sectors, barriers to gender equity in innovation, the impact of the National Innovation and Science Agenda initiatives, and the implementation status and future directions of the government’s Women’s Workforce Participation Strategy.

The department had said during Senate Estimates two weeks ago that the panel would consist of eight women and two men. It is not clear which of its male members was added at the last minute.

A spokesperson said most of the members were confirmed by September last year, with two more added in February.

“Our focus was to bring together expertise and knowledge from a number of industries and backgrounds and, in particular, individuals with an interest in entrepreneurship, STEM and women’s issues,” the spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.

“We believe the current membership of eight women and three men enables us to achieve this goal and ensures that we engage a broad representation of the innovation ecosystem.”

The roundtable will “inform how best to advance the critical role of women across Australia business, industry, innovation and science” and would meet up to three times a year in Canberra or Sydney.

The roundtable is chaired by Senator Cash, who said improving gender diversity would be a key aim of her time in the position.

“It is a priority for the Turnbull government to encourage more girls and women to pursue study and careers in industry, innovation and science,” Senator Cash said.

“The forum will provide high level advice on how existing and future industry, innovation and science policies and programs could be amended or designed to optimise such participation and impact.”

Startup Muster chief executive Monica Wulff, who is a member of the panel, said only 25 per cent of Australian startup founders are women, and nearly 40 per cent of these companies don’t have any full-time female employees.

“It was a great opportunity to express ideas about women’s participation and leadership in the workforce,” Ms Wulff told InnovationAus.com.

“It’s such a diverse group of people, and it was a listening exercise around what we’re experiencing, what the communities are experiencing and the things we’d like to do.”

“I don’t know the startup community would’ve been part of this a few years ago. It’s a testament to how far the startup community has come and that it’s now acknowledged as being a vital part of the future of Australia.”

Ms Wulff and the other roundtable members were finalised in September last year, but it took nearly six months to organise the first meeting.

“It might have been a long time in the making, but we’re going to make the most of it,” Ms Wulff said.

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