Julie Bishop delivers rousing UN Women's Day speech

Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop has told a large audience at the United Nations that "concrete targets" are critical for gender equality.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has received a rousing reception at the United Nations in New York while delivering a speech to mark International Women's Day.

"A special shout out to the women for this is your day!" Ms Bishop said, to cheers in the UN General Assembly.

The UN has been criticised for its history of appointing men in leadership positions, including 2016's push to elect the first female UN secretary-general with strong candidates including former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark in the running.

The male domination, however, continued with Portugal's Antonio Guterres getting the nod.

Ms Bishop commended Mr Guterres for his gender parity strategy, a vow to make the UN held to account for targets set and seeking gender parity in the senior UN executive team.

Concrete targets were critical for gender equality, Ms Bishop said, and research showed gender inequality, bias, discrimination and violence has a major negative impact on the economy and when the gap is narrowed substantial economic positive benefits occur.

"As Australia's first female foreign minister I have placed gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the heart of Australia's foreign policy," she said.

"I am acutely aware of the need to empower women in our region - the Indo-Pacific."

Ms Bishop said female participation in politics in the region is at just seven per cent compared to 23 per cent globally.

The foreign minister also told the large audience about a little-known dinner attended by what she described as "the female foreign minister's club".

It meets each September when world leaders fly to New York to attend the UN General Assembly leader's week.

"I can tell you it is one of the most constructive meetings I attend and this female foreign minister's club, which I am proud to be a member, now numbers 32," Ms Bishop said.

"So 32 out of 193 nations have female foreign ministers and there will be more."

Published 9 March 2018 at 3:40am, updated 9 March 2018 at 7:47am