​Australian government raises women on boards target to 50 percent

To mark the 2016 International Women's Day, Australia has increased the target for female representation on federal government boards from 40 percent to 50 percent.

The target for female representation across all Australian government boards will be increased to 50 percent from the current gender diversity target of 40 percent.

"We need to lead by example in order to drive change in corporate Australia," Minister for Women Michaelia Cash told the National Press Club on Tuesday.

Each board will aim for a minimum 40 percent female representation, with a 50 percent target across all boards.

"I am very confident that with proactive efforts by all ministers, we can achieve this target," Senator Cash said.

In a speech to mark International Women's Day, the minister spoke of the "synergies" between her two portfolios: Employment and Women.

The government's duty was to remove barriers so women and men could make the choices they want, rather than take the options they are forced to take, she said.

The minister said research showed Australian men wanted to work flexibly, but were twice as likely as women to have their request for flexible work declined.

"Working full time and being the primary breadwinner is too often seen as a choice that men make in the same way that working part time is seen as a choice for women," Senator Cash said.

"But neither is a genuine choice."

Both men and women are "funnelled" into these choices by societal and workplace expectations of women as the "ideal carer" and men as the "ideal worker".

"It is only when we notice these 'norms' -- which we are now doing -- we can challenge them and replace them with something better."

Senator Cash, one of six women in cabinet, said Australia's biggest champion of change for women is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But the Australian government is not alone in attempting to address the gender imbalance. Last year, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff addressed the issue during Dreamforce, saying that one strategy for achieving this balance is to set clear intentions and prioritise them.

"I wish we could rewind history to 16 and a half years ago," Benioff said at the time. "When we set out our corporate principals, one of the mistakes we made was not taking any goals or initiatives around this. That was a huge mistake."

Benioff also stipulated it's not just a "HR issue" but the responsibility of the CEO, explaining that just like the product or business model objectives, diversity in hiring requires transformation and leaders who set values.

Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris concurred at the time, stating frankly: "We need more women executives at Salesforce."

Social media companies Pinterest and Twitter have also recognised that gender diversity is something they need to address. Both revealed that 2016 will be the year where they will publish their hiring goals to improve diversity in their workplaces.

At the time, Twitter said only 13 percent of women held tech positions in its company in 2015, while it was 21 percent at Pinterest.

Oracle, on the other hand, has taken a different approach. Last October it announced plans to build a public charter high school on its campus in Redwood City, California to improve diversity across skilled and leadership jobs in the company. Scheduled to be completed and ready for sessions by 2017, the Design Tech High School will be used by 550 students and 30 faculties. The students will be taught tracks mainly themed around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) disciplines.

Recent research by Deloitte warned the lack of diversity in IT is both a social and an economic issue. Deloitte had predicted that by the end of 2016 there will be fewer than 25 percent of IT jobs in developed countries held by women, roughly the same as last year and perhaps even down slightly.

The report indicated the eight years between 2003 and 2013 the percentage of women in IT jobs in Sweden fell from 23 percent to 22 percent (although the percentage of women in senior IT roles did rise from 16 to 21 percent).

In the US, which has 5 million IT jobs, the proportion of female IT workers also fell from 25 to 24 percent from 2010 to 2014, with the proportion of women in senior roles falling 3 percent in 2014.

Meanwhile, in the UK, with 1.2 million IT posts, the percentage of women in IT jobs increased, if only by 1 percent from 17 percent to 18 percent from 2010 through 2015.

Baird pledges flexibility and Uber for NSW public service

More flexible working hours for senior executives in the NSW public sector will kick start a culture change to create more opportunities for women.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced all senior positions in the state's public service will be open to flexible working hours by 2019.

"We're changing our default position on the 8-6 desk-bound job," Baird said during a Sydney breakfast marking International Women's Day on Tuesday.

He said the culture change, which he believes will come with greater flexibility, will create more opportunities for women.

"At the moment about 1 to 2 percent of our senior managers in the public sector have formal flexible arrangements," Baird told reporters.

"Now they can be varied, whether it be starting early or leaving early.

"In simple terms, the more flexible the arrangements, the more opportunities ... that you've got to keep women in the workforce, to keep them in senior positions and that produces great outcomes," he said.

Baird also reiterated his pledge to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles in his government.

"At the moment it's less than 40 percent, we want to that to go up to 50 percent," he said.

The state government will establish a register to enable job-sharing across its bureaucratic ranks by 2019.

News of greater flexibility comes days after the Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet announced that the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation will be the first NSW government department to allow its public servants to use ridesharing services, such as Uber, as part of a push to reduce the government's overall travel expenditure.

Perrottet said ridesharing services could potentially save the government millions of dollars.

"Governments shouldn't be shackled to legacy systems and processes -- we should move with the times and take advantage of what the collaborative economy has to offer," he said.

"Sometimes public servants need to get around quickly and conveniently in the course of their work, but last financial year the NSW government spent more than AU$8 million on taxis alone," he said.

"If adding ridesharing to the transport mix for public servants means we can save taxpayer dollars, we shouldn't waste any time exploring that option."

In July last year, the NSW government launched an independent taskforce to examine the future of the state's taxi and ridesharing industries, which ultimately saw the decision to recognise the ridesharing service as legal.

In legalising ridesharing, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said at the time it will create a level playing field for the point to point transport industry in NSW.

"NSW is going to have a new transport economy," he said. "People will have more choice, better services, and better value when it comes to the point to point market."

The NSW government followed suit after the ACT became the first Australian state or territory to class Uber as legal. Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform Shane Rattenbury said at the time the taxi industry reform is part of broader reform to public transport, coupled with a belief that it will give customers access to safe, flexible, and affordable ridesharing services, while also reducing costs for taxi drivers, owners, and passengers.

In response to the reforms, taxi app platform GoCatch recently launched its own ridesharing service, GoCar, to compete directly with Uber.

"We've been in this point to point transport market since we launched in 2011 but we've gone about doing that via taxi drivers," GoCatch CEO Ned Moorfield said at the time.

"But with the changing regulations in Australia, it's serving a whole new path to the market that we have not been able to go into previously, and it's actually a fairly straightforward adoption of the existing platform to roll this out."

With AAP