Victoria's public service could be legally required to employ at least 40 per cent women.
The radical move, designed to help balance the workforce gender scales, has been suggested by a forum helping guide a bill due reach parliament in 2019 by a re-elected Labor government.
The government has already started work drafting the Gender Equality Bill and held a “citizens jury” at the weekend.
The group settled on a 40:40:20 target – 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men, and 20 per cent made up of either gender.
The jury recommended the change be realised within a 10-year time frame.
“There were people who came into it who were very sceptical of quotas and after having lots of information, debate, hearing speakers, talking it through, basically 80 average Victorians were able to come to a position they were in favour of quotas,” Women’s Minister Natalie Hutchins said.
“It’s not the be-all and end-all but it certainly goes a long way when government sets an example of saying ‘here’s what we are going to do to step up on gender equality’.”
Increased representation is hampered by arguments about “merit” and family obligations, the minister added.
The expectation is if more women are recruited, they will work their way through to leadership roles, increasing respect towards women not just at work but at home.
“It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the skills, ability and merit to do it. What this is about is making sure women have the same opportunities for men in their workplaces,” Ms Hutchins said.
“We know that by tackling this sort of gender equality issue, we’re going to have a broader effect on the respect of women and hopefully that will have a flow on affect to driving down violence against women.”
The forum also recommended legislating paternal parental leave for all public sector employees.
The jury hoped the changes will lead the way for the private business to follow suit.
The citizen’s jury was selected by a recruitment company to represent the wider Victorian population.
Ms Hutchins said a report by the jury would be tabled in parliament and taken to cabinet for consideration.
Victorians go to the polls on November 24.