Shorten’s $150k superwomen fund labelled ‘union mates’ handout

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Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten will spend $150k to help women gain seats on super boards, but he's been accused of using the gender issue to meet his own ends.

The money will go towards the Super Springboard Program for women, which will be run by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) in conjunction with Women in Super (WIS), and will provide a scholarship program.

“I am an absolute believer in the march of women through Australia’s workforce, our institutions and our boardrooms – our country can only get better the more women participate at its highest levels, be it in politics, business, sports, our universities, our military,” said Shorten. 

According to the Women on Boards Boardroom Diversity Index 2012, women currently represent 21.8% of members of superannuation trustee boards. This compares well with the 13.9% per cent of director positions in ASX 200 companies held by women, but is well below the 40% five-year target set by the AIST.

“A number of funds have already joined this ‘40 per cent club’, including  AGEST Super, HESTA, Australian Catholic Super and Retirement Fund, the NT Government Public Authorities’ Superannuation,  Super SA, Tasplan, Telstra Super, Health Industry Plan and IAG & NRMA Superannuation Plan,” said Shorten.

“I encourage more funds to make a pledge to join the 40 per cent club.”

The AIST is also calling for public disclosure of the board’s achievement against its measurable gender objectives as well as the proportion of women on their board, in senior management positions, and employed throughout the company. 

The Financial Services Council (FSC) is also set to  include a new board diversity policy in its superannuation governance standard.  From 1 July 2013 FSC members will need to develop and implement a board diversity policy with measurable objectives for achieving gender diversity.  Both the policy and the assessment will need to be disclosed via the companies’ websites.

Shadow Superannuation minister Mathias Cormann, however, has accused Shorten of only acting to protect his vested interests.

“Today’s announcement of funding for the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees to encourage more women onto superannuation boards looks very much like another handout to the Minister’s union mates, rather than a genuine attempt to encourage diversity,” he said.

“The AIST represents only the union dominated industry super funds, yet there are many women who could make a valuable contribution to super boards in both the industry and retail sectors.

“This sudden announcement by the Minister with a record favouring his union mates looks suspiciously like more cynical politics.”

He added that Shorten must answer the following questions:

  • Were any other education providers considered?
  • Did the Minister consider a program that would have been available across the whole super sector?
  •  Will women who are seeking careers in the retail superannuation fund sector have access to this funding? How will this be guaranteed?

  • carl on 6/11/2012 10:06:01 AM

    Excellent, Marie

  • Marie Testa on 5/11/2012 5:15:56 PM

    Must I say it, I am a woman, professionally qualified, an Accountant, a long standing financial adviser, a mother, a happy wife of almost 28 years, and never have I been more insulted by political and industry comments. I have been working since 1984 and for those who can count, now 50 years of age. I have earned my position through hard work, integrity, honesty, on-going education and perseverence, in a country dominated by a minority who speak their minds, while the majority are complacent, I being one of the latter. Please, I am proud of my acheivements career wise and as a mother / wife, without anyone patting my back so to speak, but I defintely dont need anyone to pave the way for "women". Any woman placed in those positions, Mr Shorten, will never know if it is because they are competant? deserved it? or politically correct. Who wants to be placed in positions forced down any assocations, coporations or any other institution neck by a well meaning "man"? Pardon me, I got here on my own steam, on my own initiative, without anyone needing to check that I wear a skirt. How dare anyone, undermine any person's worth, male or female. Its times like this that we need a new political party representing the complacent 90% of Australians, like myself, it must be my age.

  • Alex Warren on 5/11/2012 11:09:36 AM

    This is crazy to have a goal to have 40% of women filling these positions. Much of the reason why women don’t fill the 40% quota is many have been away from the workforce raising a family. If a mum ends up being a stay at home mum it is likely that her career will suffer. This isn’t because women aren’t equally skilled but simply as they don’t have the work skills and experience that their male counterparts have due to years of experience. While I believe that women deserve every opportunity it is the best candidates that should fill these roles. Any role governments should play is ensuring equality in the workplace and society. If anything, this government has been denigrating women in society. The government has devalued the work of stay at home mums, to the point of trying to make them out to be lazy bloodsuckers of the economy. Their policy speaks for itself, forcing women back into the workforce. I don’t hold a grudge against Julia Gillard not raising a family but she is certainly out of touch with the community. The hard work mums do in raising kids and maintaining a household is huge. Yet this government seems to be saying to them this is not enough to be of value you need to be working. It is time for this government to recognise the value of the stay at home mum and stop the extreme left view from promoting women to the point of denigrating them.

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