No equality in the honours: two-thirds of Australia Day awards go to men

Datablog: Gender imbalance in Order of Australia honours remains relatively unchanged for past 20 years

The gender imbalance in Australia Day honours continues, with only a third of 2018’s awards going to women.

This proportion in the general division of the Order of Australia has remained relatively similar for the past 20 years, according to figures available from the governor general’s office, with no apparent trend toward equality.

Proportion of women nominated and awarded honours of the Order of Australia

The governor general’s office provides a breakdown of the awards by category. There is only one category in the 2018 list – the disability category - with more female than male recipients. Two other categories – arts and veterinary science – have a 50-50 split.

Proportion of Order of Australia awards by category and gender, 2018

Since the awards began in 1975, men have outnumbered women in almost all categories, with the exception of the library and disability categories.

Proportion of Order of Australia awards by category and gender, 1975 t0 2017

The journalist Tracey Spicer, whose investigations have highlighted sexual harassment in the media and entertainment industries, said the honours imbalance demonstrated that society needed to value women’s work equally to men’s. She also pointed the finger at the gender mix within the Council for the Order of Australia, “which is by no means gender-balanced”.

“It’s disappointing … we need to nominate more women,” Spicer said. “After all, women do the bulk of society’s unpaid labour and volunteer work.”

The process for awarding honours is notoriously secretive and there have been numerous calls for increased transparency. In 2012 the federal court rejected a freedom-of-information request for documents pertaining to policy and criteria used in the awards process.

The Victorian government on Friday announced it would appoint a dedicated awards officer who will be tasked with putting forward an additional 200 nominations of Victorian women each year to address the gender imbalance.

To identify nominees, the awards officer will organise workshops, and tap into existing databases, such as the Victorian women’s honour roll. In a statement the Victorian government said it would complement work already being done to improve diversity of Victorian nominees by working with Indigenous and multicultural organisations.

“Victorian women contribute equally to the success of our state and it’s important that we nominate them to be recognised for their service and dedication,” Victoria’s acting minister for women, Jenny Mikakos, said. “We’re on track to become the first jurisdiction to achieve a 50-50 split of male and female nominations – which will be a significant milestone and encourage other states and territories to lift their game.”

For the 2018 Australia Day honours, the most awards went to the community category, followed by the medicine and sport categories:

Proportion of Order of Australia awards by category, 2018

Since 1975, after the community category, more awards have gone to sport over medicine:

Proportion of Order of Australia awards by category, 1975 to 2017

Contributors

Nick Evershed and Melissa Davey

The GuardianTramp

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