Women on top: progression, not participation, in Australia's top jobs

Thursday 25 November, 5:30 - 7pm

Woman standing in empty boardroom, staring at the window and thinking about the how the patriarchy keeps her down

The rapid feminisation of the workforce in the corporate business sector and in new and traditional professions has not been accompanied with significant gender rebalancing of senior executive roles and boards. Similar, male-heavy leadership also persists among universities and the creative sector, and it is especially noticeable in the federal parliament.

Australia is therefore in danger of becoming an outlier in comparison to the gains made at the top in other advanced economies, creating a reputational doubt about bias in senior roles. The impacts can undermine the sensitivity of parliament to women’s needs, the ability of businesses to appeal to the market as a whole, and the capacity of institutions to design solutions that are fit for purpose.

Join this UWA Public Policy Institute discussion to hear about research findings on the pace of gender equity in different sectors, the measures that have worked, and perspectives of senior women who have driven change.


Event details

Thursday 25 November, 5:30 - 7pm AWST
Virtual panel discussion and Q&A



  • Diane Smith-Gander AO, Chair of Zip Co Limited, Safe Work Australia and for the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, non-executive director of AGL Energy, HBF Health Limited, DDH1 and Keystart Loans group. Diane is a professional non-executive director maintaining a diverse portfolio over varying types of entities, industries and geographies. She is an advocate for gender equity and a past president of Chief Executive Women. She holds an MBA from the University of Sydney and a BEc from UWA.  She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) and an adjunct professor of corporate governance at UWA. In 2018 Diane was the Business Award winner in the West Australian of the Year Awards in recognition of her contribution to business in the state and her advocacy for gender equity.  She also became an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2019 for services to business, women’s engagement in executive roles, gender equality and the community.


Panel line-up

  • Toni Emmanuel, Commissioner, Public Service Arbitrator and mediator at the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Toni deals with a range of matters including industrial disputes, award and agreement interpretation, road freight transport industry tribunal matters, unfair dismissal and denied contractual benefit claims and appeals by police, custodial officers, apprentices and government officers. Prior to her appointment, Commissioner Emmanuel was the Principal Solicitor at the Employment Law Centre of Western Australia, a leading specialist employment law service, where she led a team delivering vital assistance to vulnerable workers in Western Australia. The Commissioner was awarded WA Lawyer of the Year in 2009.
  • Shelagh Magadza, Executive Director of the Chamber for Arts and Culture WA, the State’s peak industry body. She has had an extensive career as an Artistic Director and Producer of major events and Festivals. For the last decade, she has held leadership positions as Artistic Director of two of Australasia’s largest multi-arts Festivals in Perth and New Zealand. She has been an advocate for artists both at a community level and creating international opportunities for touring and exchange. 

  • Winthrop Professor Alison Preston, the first female Professor of Economics at The University of Western Australia Business School. Alison is presently the Vice-President of the WA Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and a member UWA’s Academic Board. She was previously the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Business at UWA (2013-2017) and a member of the UWA Business School Board. Before joining UWA she was Director of the Curtin Graduate School of Business (2009-2013) and held a visiting appointment at the International Labor Organisation in Geneva. Alison’s research interests are in financial literacy and in gender and employment. She has contributed to a number of advisory boards, including the Committee for the Development of Australia (CEDA (WA)) and the WA Women’s Advisory Council and has undertaken research on women and employment for a number of business and government bodies including the Mineral Council, the Fair Work Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission.   

  • Jessica Shaw MLA, Member for Swan Hills in the WA Legislative Assembly and chair of the parliament’s Economics and Industry Standing Committee. Before entering parliament, Jessica was a commercial executive in the energy industry for over a decade, and enjoyed a prior career in foreign affairs as the Political and Economic Attaché to the British High Commission and adviser to the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee. She has four degrees, including a Master of Laws from the University of Cambridge.

This event will be livestreamed and recorded. Attendees with carer responsibilities or otherwise unable to tune in are encouraged to register and catch up on demand: we will send the recording link to all registrants out a week or so after the event.