On Friday 8 March people around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. UN Women’s global theme for International Women’s Day 2019, ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’, links with the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s focus on social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure. From 11 to 22 March 2019 the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) will be held in New York. Australia’s CSW63 delegation will be led by the Minister for Women, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, and will include Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone; Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Kate Jenkins; Head of the Office for Women, Ms Trish Bergin; and a number of other prominent women in leadership positions.
Australia’s theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is ‘More Powerful Together’. The theme recognises the importance of women, men, non-binary and gender diverse people working together to break down stereotypes and gendered roles to create a world where women and girls have equal rights and opportunities.
The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme, which is separate from the UN and national themes, is determined by a worldwide group of private and government organisations committed to driving gender parity. This year’s campaign theme is ‘Balance for Better’—a call to action to work towards gender-balance in all aspects of society including, but not limited to: government, business, employment, wealth, media representation and sports coverage.
Continuing global gender imbalance in political representation
Around the world, political representation continues to be a key area of gender imbalance. Globally, women comprised 24.3 per cent of members of national parliaments as at 1 January 2019. Only the parliaments of three countries—Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia—have a majority of women in their lower house. Australia is currently ranked equal 48th in the world out of 193 countries for representation of women in the lower house, behind New Zealand (15th) and the United Kingdom (39th) but ahead of Canada (62nd) and the United States of America (equal 78th).
In Australia, according to Parliamentary Library figures, women made up 33.2 per cent of all members of the Commonwealth Parliament as at 15 January 2019. The combined figure for the Commonwealth Parliament and state and territory parliaments is 34.7 per cent. In one jurisdiction, the Australian Capital Territory, the majority of members of the ACT Legislative Assembly are women. In one state parliament, Tasmania, women and men are equally represented.
Women in Australia remain under-represented in ministries and shadow ministries. The current federal Liberal-National ministry comprises 30 men and 11 women (26.8 per cent). Of those 11 women, seven are members of Cabinet and four are Assistant Ministers. The Labor shadow ministry is made up of 27 men and 20 women (42.6 per cent). Of those 20 women, seven are members of the shadow Cabinet, five are members of the outer shadow ministry and eight are shadow Assistant Ministers.
As at 1 January 2019, 38.3 per cent of state and territory ministers were women. The majority of ministers in the Northern Territory Government and half the ministers in the Queensland Government are women.
For information about the history of International Women’s Day, please see a previous (2013) Parliamentary Library FlagPost on International Women’s Day.