Print this page

Athena SWAN

Athena Swan member Logo

UC joins program to improve gender equality in STEMM sector

The University of Canberra has joined a pilot program aimed at addressing gender inequity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) education and careers.

Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) is a national program run by the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Academy of Technology and Engineering, which focuses on promoting gender equity and gender diversity in STEMM.

The University of Canberra was awarded membership to the SAGE Athena SWAN Charter in Australia in September last year, and is one of 32 organisations, including 25 universities Australia-wide participating in the program.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Frances Shannon, who has championed the University's involvement in the pilot program, said there was a real need for more women to consider a career in STEMM.

"The University is already an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality, recognising our commitment to gender equity in the workplace, an award we have received each year since 2007. While we are immensely proud of this achievement, we recognise the need to do even more to encourage and support women to pursue a career in STEMM." Professor Shannon said.

" In Australia, fewer than one in four positions in STEMM fields are held by women, that means that there is little diversity of perspectives when addressing the kinds of problems we expect our scientists, engineers, designers and doctors to take on," she said.

As part of the program, the University will collect and analyse data on its gender equity policies and practices in STEMM and identify areas with room for improvement. The University hopes to receive an Athena SWAN bronze award by the end of the pilot in 2018.

A working group of 17 faculty and professional staff members will act as the University's self-assessment team, including Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Nick Klomp, cancer researcher Professor Sudha Rao and the head of the physiotherapy discipline Professor Jennie Scarvell.

Professor Klomp said the group will be analysing data from across the University to gauge the number of women working in STEMM related fields compared to non-STEMM fields.

"An action plan will be created in the coming months, which will aim to increase gender equity at the University, with policy approaches on recruitment, promotion and retention of women-identified STEMM researchers and with a focus on improving gender diversity in senior positions," Professor Klomp said.

Other organisations participating in the pilot program include the CSIRO, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

The Athena SWAN Charter process is based on ten key principles. 

By being part of Athena SWAN, institutions are committing to a progressive charter adopting these principles within their policies, practices, action plans and culture.

  1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.
  2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.
  3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. In this we recognise disciplinary differences including: * the particularly high loss rate of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).
  4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.
  5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.
  6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.
  7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by transgender people.
  8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.
  9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.
  10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.