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UC VC to further drive change in the equity stakes

Suzanne Lazaroo

29 January 2019: University of Canberra graduates are industry-ready, multi-skilled and fiercely driven.

But Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deep Saini hopes they are also a lot more.

“UC graduates will have a hand in shaping the workplaces of the future,” he said. “When you think about it, that is the power to shape the world.”

“And with this power comes the responsibility to contour it into something better than it is.”

When UC graduates step into their workplaces – present or future – Professor Saini hopes they take with them an innate, firmly anchored belief in the need for a level playing field, and the desire to balance the scales when necessary.

However, quite aside from the moral imperative of doing the just thing, he also sees a pragmatic side to ensuring that equity is practiced.

“Every workplace is increasingly diverse nowadays,” he said. “Without equality, we lose our competitive edge – so supporting equity is simply a matter of enlightened self-interest.”

It’s a responsibility Professor Saini takes seriously, as he dreams of a day when we, as a society, no longer need to have conversations about why gender equity is needed, or how to support it.

“Because it will simply be the norm. We won’t need to talk about it, we will just live it, every day,” he said.

“It comes down to: what do you believe in? Equal pay for equal work of an equal value: there is a natural rationality and logic to it.”

That philosophy underlies both his and the University’s strong push for gender equality at all levels – and it has driven his latest endeavour, as he joins the network of Pay Equity Ambassadors under the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

With this, he has deepened the University’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap.

“The University has a long history of proactively supporting gender equality – UC has been designated an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for 11 years in a row.”

The University is a White Ribbon Workplace and a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace, the home of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, and has a strong commitment to the SAGE Athena SWAN Charter program.

“But at the same time, we need to do more to close the gap. Not just when it comes to pay, but also in academic leadership and management positions – we’re not there yet, but we’re close,” Professor Saini said.

For Professor Saini, becoming a Pay Equity Ambassador is both a natural step in UC’s ongoing and progressive strategy to drive further change, and in line with his own personal beliefs.  

“I am interested in the value of people as human beings, and the value of the work they produce,” he said.

According to Professor Saini, the University will undergo another pay gap analysis this year, aimed at further bridging the gap.

Professor Saini is firmly committed to gender equity in employment, but not by setting quotas; he is determined to ensure that merit is not neglected in favour of these.

“The lazy way to do this is to simply set and meet quotas. That is also a very superficial approach. We believe in doing the hard work of the targeted recruitment and retention of meritorious women, by proactively approaching and convincing them to apply for positions with us.”

“It’s one thing to believe in fairness and equity, and quite another to make it happen in a meaningful way,” Professor Saini said. “At the University, we’re committed and proactive, and believe that a thoughtful, strategic and multi-level approach is the best way to effectively meld our beliefs and outcomes.”

Read more about the University of Canberra’s Gender Equality Strategy here.