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Australia’s international relations sector — the departments and organisations that are responsible for conducting Australia’s international relations — has a severe gender imbalance in its workforce. While there have been notable trailblazers, the pace of change has been slow and uneven across the sector. Few of the most important diplomatic postings have ever been held by a woman. Women do not appear in the sector’s key policy-shaping activities. Significantly fewer women are rising to senior positions in the sector compared with the Australian public sector as a whole, international peers, and the corporate sector. The gender imbalance in the Australian Intelligence Community is particularly pronounced.
It is important for the sector to address this imbalance. A more diverse workforce will not only better reflect Australian society, but make full use of the available talent pool. There is substantial evidence from the private sector that gender-balanced workforces are more effective, efficient, and innovative. Until the sector better represents Australian society it fails to use the best available talent to navigate Australia’s place in an increasingly complex world.