22/09/2016 6:03 AM AEST | Updated 22/09/2016 6:10 AM AEST

NXT to Turnbull Government: Show Some Leadership On Women

Female leadership is a "red flag" issue for Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore

Andrew Meares, Fairfax
NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore (l) and the Nick Xenophon Team

CANBERRA -- Nick Xenophon Team Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore wants the Turnbull Government to show leadership on her "red flag" issue of gender equality despite it grappling with its own slide in female representation.

There's a government policy to improve the gender balance on Commonwealth government boards, but the representation is slipping and the new NXT Senator is behind a new push to legislate a target.

A bill due to be reintroduced next month would require a split on government boards of 40 percent male, 40 percent female and 20 percent of either gender or a comprehensive explanation would be demanded.

Andrew Meares, Fairfax
NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore says gender equality is a "red flag" issue

Senator Kakoschke-Moore has told The Huffington Post Australia her childhood in the Middle East has inspired her to fight for gender equality.

"There was not too much scope for women in that particular setting to really attain leadership positions," she told HuffPost Australia.

"So when I returned to Australia and I saw obviously women have so much more opportunity here to attain leadership positions, yet we seem not to be getting to the point where woman have an equal share of leadership, that was a red flag to me."

Senator Kakoschke-Moore said the gender balance on government boards has slipped over recent years and is "something we need to address at a federal government level".

"I believe the government has an obligation to set an example to the corporate world when it comes to appointing women into leadership positions," the South Australia Senator said.

It's a gender target for NXT, not a quota.

"You never want to be in a position where you have people appointed to a board because they are just fulfilling some numbers," she said.

"Because that places doubt in that person's mind that has been appointed and also in their colleagues' mind about the merit of them being there."

This week, the quarterly Gender Diversity Quarterly Report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors showed progress towards ASX 200 companies meeting a 30 per cent target of female representation on boards by 2018.

The percentage of women on corporate boards has risen to 23.8 percent from a low of 8.3 percent in 2009.

Fifty three companies have already reached the 30 percent target, up from 38 companies this time last year, but there are still 22 ASX 200 boards with no women.

Andrew Meares, Fairfax
NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore wants the Turnbull Government to show leadership on gender equality

The Nick Xenophon Team wants the Turnbull Government to set an example for government boards, and Senator Kakoschke-Moore expects the boards will be all the better for it.

"Research both domestic and international has repeatedly shown that boards that are gender diverse perform better, make better decisions," she said.

"From a very practical level it makes sense to have a gender diverse board, particularly when it does lead to better outcomes."

Things are improving in federal parliament, but not for the ruling Liberal/National Coalition. Women now make up 32 percent of the federal parliament, up from 27 percent on the 44th parliament. The rise is thanks to a host of newly elected Labor and minor party politicians, whereas the Liberal Party lost four female MPs on July 2.

The Federal Liberal Party Executive recently adopted a long-term grassroots gender reform program in a bid to encourage more women to join and participate.

"I just want to make sure they are taking the issue seriously," Senator Kakoschke-Moore told HuffPost Australia. "They have actually gone backwards when it comes to female representation within parliament and within their party."

"I think it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to ensure that reversal does not keep happening."

"We'll be doing everything we can to convince the Coalition Government that having gender diversity is a good thing and that we should be setting the example to the corporate world in terms of making some real difference, to ensure women are fulfilling leadership roles."