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Transformative Steps Towards Equity in Australian Research

Written by: Dr Lucy Buxton |  Operations Manager at Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador  
Dr. Isabelle Kingsley, Associate Professor Lisa Williams, Rae Johnston, Professor Emma Johnston, Dr. Janin Bredehoeft (left to right)

On October 16th Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador (based at UNSW) and Dr. Janin Bredehoeft, CEO of Science in Gender Equity (SAGE) held an event aimed at inspiring action on issues of gender equity within the research sector. With attendees from the university, research, STEM and government sectors, the occasion served as a catalyst for a solutions-driven conversation, addressing long-standing gender disparities in the field.

Central to the discourse was a recent and comprehensive study undertaken by the Women in STEM Ambassador’s research team, led and presented by Senior Research Associate Dr. Isabelle Kingsley. The study illuminated a nuanced issue beyond research grant systems, revealing that gender differences in Australian research grant programs arise from unequal workforce participation.

Dr. Isabelle Kingsley’s presentation of the research laid the groundwork for a profound dialogue on evidence-based strategies to propel progress toward gender equity in research. Following this presentation, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney, Professor Emma Johnston AO FAA FTSE FRSN, engaged in a dynamic conversation with journalist Rae Johnston. Their discussion explored the intricate dimensions of gender equity in higher education and research, emphasizing the pivotal role of research funding in shaping this landscape.

This dialogue provided a platform for the exchange of practical strategies and best practices. Professor Emma Johnston and Rae Johnston deliberated on actionable measures proven to expedite progress towards gender equity in the research workforce. The aim was to equip and empower leaders in higher education and research with the necessary insights and tools for meaningful change.

From this exchange emerged practical actions, offering a roadmap for institutions and individuals to contribute actively to gender equity advancement, including:

  • Create gender-neutral recruitment documentation and set shortlisting (at least 40% women shortlisted)
  • Encourage and support women to apply for promotions (especially to academic levels D and E in universities)
  • Establish grassroots working groups and committees to drive and inform equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts
  • Create paid roles to lead and/or support EDI work (e.g., create an Associate Dean of EDI that is 40% of an academic’s role associated with a formal workload allocation; hire professional staff to support EDI work)
  • Embed EDI into everything that you do and the very foundations of how you operate.

This event represents a significant stride towards creating a more inclusive and equitable research environment. The ultimate goal is clear: to inform and empower leaders in higher education and research to take proactive and meaningful actions in fostering inclusive and equitable workplaces. As these initiatives gain momentum, there is hope for broader inspiration, contributing to a global movement for gender equity in STEM and beyond.

The event recording is available to watch here.