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Proposed women quota for high powered jobs in Australia sparks debate

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Summary of story from Sydney Morning Herald, June 30, 2011

In Sydney, the Australian capital where women hold the country’s two most powerful jobs, there is discussion over whether women need quotas to assume leadership roles.

Business women and men will now hear a live debate on whether mandatory quotas are needed to boost the representation of women in leadership positions.

Ita Buttrose will join the Royal Australian Air Force group captain Sue McGready and UN Women Australia executive director Julie McKay, who will be defending the proposal.

Opposing the quota will be Jane Woolfe, Defence Material Organisation strategic reform general manager, arts advocate Robyn Archer and RedBalloon founder Naomi Simpson.

An unconscious bias still exists against women in Australia, preventing them from taking the top jobs, McKay says. “I think for a lot of women (the glass ceiling) is still intact,” McKay told AAP.

“I think there are absolutely women who have smashed through it and who are reaching down and pulling other people up with them but I think for many, many Australian women they’ve reached the point in their lives where there career choices are not.”

Woolfe disagrees with the quotas: “My view is that if there are support arrangements like good mentoring and role modelling then the opportunities where women are put in to succeed, you don’t need quotas,” she told the Australian Associated Press.

The debate, organised by the Australian Institute of Management, will be held at the National Convention Centre in Canberra on Friday.

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