Science in Australia Gender Equity at Swinburne

Swinburne is enhancing gender equity and diversity, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), by participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Pilot Program.

Currently, women comprise more than half of science PhD graduates and early career researchers in Australia, but only 17 per cent of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes. As a leading Australian university we seek to improve outcomes for women in STEMM, play a role in advancing gender equity and diversity, and implement meaningful actions to create long-lasting change. 

We’re proud to be an inaugural Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award recipient, and through the SAGE program, we have developed a four-year Action Plan to address gender inequity.

Swinburne also supports the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering as well as 'Women in STEM' Decadal Plan

The Decadal Plan identifies six opportunities (actions) to drive change over the next decade;

Our work closely aligns with the Decadal Plan, and we are actively creating an environment where girls and women can engage in STEM education and then use those skills to progress through their careers to senior level.

We support and have developed a broad range of outreach initiatives, both nationally and as part of Victoria’s STEM Ecosystem, to increase the number of secondary school students participating in STEM.

Internally, we are working to establish STEMM workforce and study base that is fit for the future, globally recognised, powered by a diverse and gender-balanced pipeline, and supported by an inclusive and respectful workplace culture.

What is SAGE?

SAGE is a national program that promotes gender equity and diversity in (STEMM).

The initiative was established to pilot the UK’s Athena SWAN Charter in Australia and the accreditation framework in Australia. Launched in 2015, SAGE is a partnership between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Building on the success of the UK Athena Swan Charter, SAGE is adapted its accreditation framework for use in Australia in the STEMM higher education and research sector.

Athena SWAN is a mechanism for gender equity, providing a framework in which to plan and undertake concrete work to create structural and cultural change for gender equity. It addresses the cultures, systems and structural barriers, that hinder the participation and advancement of women and minority groups in organisations – making it an effective enabling mechanism for transformational change.

How Swinburne defines STEMM

Swinburne is one of more than 45 Australian institutions taking part in the two-year pilot program of the successful UK Athena SWAN accreditation program. There are 10 principles of the Athena SWAN charter which Swinburne has committed to adopting within its own policies, practices, action plans and culture.

The Athena SWAN Charter

Through our involvement in the SAGE program, Swinburne has adopted the ten principles of the Athena SWAN Charter:

  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. 

You can also support the Athena SWAN Charter

  • Download the Athena SWAN Charter to display in your work or study area.
  • Apply the ten principles in your every day and your planning. Nominate women for awards, speaking engagements or positions of leadership. Celebrate women’s achievements. Challenge stereotypes and bias. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Share your commitment on social media. Download a commitment poster and tag #AthenaSWAN #WomenInSTEMM #GenderEquity @Swinburne
  • Contact us to find out more and get involved.

Benefits of gender equity and diversity

Diversity enhances innovation by offering different perspectives, which leads to more innovative solutions, helping us push the frontiers of discovery.

By addressing workplace barriers to advancing gender equity, both men and women across all disciplines benefit. This will help us retain our best scientists and innovators and ensure Australia’s research and development excellence is maintained.

Organisations using the Athena SWAN framework in the UK have improved gender diversity and bolstered representation of women in leadership in STEMM. 

Scientists in these organisations have experienced greater career satisfaction and fairness in workload allocation, and increased opportunities for training and development. This has led to transformations in workplace culture.

Infographic showing the percentage of women in STEMM at Swinburne University

Figure: Representation of academic positions held by women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines at Swinburne.

What we're doing

Our proud commitment to gender equity in the workplace was recognised with an Athena SWAN International Bronze Award – the highest recognition currently available in Australia – from SAGE. 

As part of our award we developed the SAGE Action Plan 2019-2022’. This plan includes initiatives that are already underway at Swinburne, and outlines new actions we can undertake to improve the attraction, promotion and retention of women and gender minorities in STEMM.

As a SAGE member, we are working to reduce gender bias to create a more inclusive culture that values all staff.

So far, throughout the self-reflective program process we have:

  • collected and analysed staff and student data, and reflected on our current policies and practices
  • engaged with staff and students to identify gaps and opportunities to improve gender equity in STEMM
  • developed and started implementing an action plan to improve our practices, and promote, develop and retain women in STEMM disciplines.

How you can get involved

We have now moved into the action implementation phase of the project. Students or staff wanting to get involved in the project can contact us here to find out more!

Become a change agent to help us implement the SAGE action plan. The Swinburne forum on the SAGE project findings, actions and next steps attracted a wide range of volunteers but we need more. We invite all members of the Swinburne community to get involved and help us create a gender-equitable, diverse and inclusive organisation. Please come along to future events and actively support equity at Swinburne in all the ways outlined in our SAGE action plan.

Contact us to find out how you can get involved in SAGE at Swinburne

Contact us

Contact us to find out how you can get involved in SAGE at Swinburne.