Skip to content

International Women's Day

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

Today is International Women’s Day. Workplaces across Australia will be going to great lengths to show the women who work there that they matter and are appreciated. Some will host morning teas with cupcakes, balloons and stickers. Others will hold meaningful discussions with invited speakers with lived experiences. But for most workplaces, tomorrow will be business as usual. And if we’re completely honest, what has the whole thing achieved?

International Women’s Day can invoke feelings of pessimism and disappointment for many women. Engaging in activism is great, but many wonder what is being done to drive lasting change after this one day per year passes.

For the past few years I have worked with Australia’s business leaders, educators, and policymakers to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM. What I have noticed during that time is a STEM sector with a deep enthusiasm for initiatives that support individuals to navigate a system with embedded disadvantage, but very little commitment to change the systems so they don’t perpetuate that disadvantage.

Support programs have their place, as do activities that highlight the stellar accomplishments of women in STEM, but they are not designed to achieve the structural changes that are necessary to achieve gender equity in the STEM sector and beyond. After all, to create change, you have to actually change something.

To facilitate this, we have created a series of free, evidence-based tools to support the design of effective programs and interventions that promote gender equity. Evaluating STEM equity programs: A guide to effective program evaluation and the STEM Equity Evaluation Portal support people to evaluate their initiatives and better understand what works. Both tools were developed by Dr Isabelle Kingsley, Senior Research Associate in my team.

On Thursday, 30 March, we will be launching a new tool called Workplace Gender Equity: An Implementation Guide. The guide provides practical advice on how to develop and implement evidence-based gender equity programs, and avoid common pitfalls. We invite you to join us for the online launch event where you can hear from the guide’s author, Susan Barnes.

For Australia to compete in an ever-more technological world, we need to nurture a highly skilled workforce to create innovative solutions to the many environmental and social challenges we face. Redefining the way we organise our personal and working lives will enable us to attract and retain the best talent and supercharge our ability to compete in global markets. Gender bias and discrimination has no place in that vision for the future.

Workplace change requires commitment and dedicated investment of time, money, and people. If you are ready to start the work necessary to create genuine, lasting change this International Women’s Day, then sign up for the launch event and use our free evaluation tools to find out and share what truly works to shift the dial. I’d love to see you there.

Media contacts

For further information contact Becky Laurence,, 0466 942 077

Workplace Equity

Explore the evidence-based tools we've developed to support transformative action for equity in STEM workplaces.

Learn more about our research

We lead two research projects to examine gender equity in grant programs in the Australian research sector.