Female Representation in the 2021 Queen’s Honours

The 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours list was full of covid heroes and a more diverse group of individuals than ever before. At a nearly 50/50 split of male and female honourees, it’s making headlines for progressive benchmarks. But at the most senior levels, women make up only 39% of awards. It has some brows furrowed, even in the commonwealth. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours list boasts the highest proportion of female recipients in the history of Order of Australia honours, says Governor-General David Hurley. But women’s advocacy groups say that for women to comprise 44 per cent of the 947 honourees in the order’s general division is not good enough.” Today, we’ll highlight the good, the bad and the ugly about the 2021 Queen’s Honours’ increased female representation.

The statistics on female representation

2021 marks the largest amount of female representation in many years. The Queen’s Honours list contains pioneering women in business, medicine, charity and the arts. TV greats like Prue Leith join researchers like Professor Sarah Catherine Gilbert who aided Covid Vaccine Development for a list of female leaders with true gravitas. Even the conversation around the awards is more representative. The Scottish Government ensured a 50/50 split in their public notice regarding the awards given to Scottish nationals. But we shouldn’t get too carried away with the positive tide. Although 49% of awards recipients were women this year, that number drops with the more senior awards. Why did 11% more men win the most senior honours? 

A participation trophy

There’s evidence that fewer women may win awards simply because of a lack of participation. The Medium suggests this is because women are nominated less, even in non-gendered awards. By way of example, they looked at Hollywood; “The Television Critics Association (TCA) changed their gendered awards to “individual achievement” for drama and comedy in 1997; in the past 22 years, men won 28 of the individual achievement awards, 15 for drama and 13 for comedy. In 2017, TheWrap found of the five gender-neutral awards given by the TCA, BAFTA and MTV, two-thirds of nominees have been men, and men have won 70 percent of the awards. Men are overwhelmingly winning “gender-neutral” awards not because they produce inherently better work and more of it; but because [America’s] gender-neutral state is default-male.” And it’s closer to home too. An independent review of Scottish literary society found there was still less representation of women authors and publishers in the Saltire Society’s Book of the Year and First Book of the Year Awards despite their significant contributions to culture.

How you can helpKeeping the positive momentum of female representation going is easy: nominate pioneering women in your circle of influence. If current research is correct, the only thing holding women back from receiving more Queen’s Honours for their valuable work is participation in the nomination process. If you’d like help creating the perfect award nomination for a trailblazing woman in your life, let’s talk. We can help you make the award submission process easy. By putting more women forward for the highest awards, we can hope to reverse the current trend of male dominance amongst the senior roles.

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