Swinburne celebrates International Women’s Day 2020

Thursday 12 March 2020

panellists at Swinburne's INternational Womens Day event 2020

The panellists at Swinburne's International Women's Day celebration encouraged women to believe in themselves and to call out bias.

In summary

  • Journalist and Swinburne’s inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow for Multicultural Engagement, Helen Kapalos, facilitated a panel discussion to celebrate International Women's Day at Swinburne

A panel of remarkable women shared some of the challenges they have faced as part of Swinburne’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations.

This year’s theme encouraged a call to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions and recognise women’s achievements. 

Facilitated by journalist and Swinburne’s inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow for Multicultural Engagement, Helen Kapalos, the panel comprised: 

  • Swinburne Indigenous Studies Lecturer Emma Gavin 
  • Teacher and co-founder of Coffee with a Muslim Inaz Janif 
  • Midsumma Festival CEO Karen Bryant 
  • Richmond Football Club AFLW player Sabrina Frederick 
  • Student Union Women's Collective Representative Isobel O'Dwyer 

Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson AO welcomed guests and the panellists. 

“As individuals, our panellists have had great success in their fields. As women, they have witnessed – or experienced personally – the bias that can derail, devalue or completely disintegrate the effort, care and expertise women bring to their work, Professor Kristjanson said. 

She described Swinburne’s Action Plan, underpinned by the Athena SWAN Charter, to advance gender equity and diversity through the national Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program. This guides organisations as they adopt policies, practices, action plans and cultural change.

“Of particular relevance to our panel today,” she continued, “Tthe charter recognises that all individuals have identities shaped by several different factors, – that intersectionality matters – and commits us to considering this intersection wherever possible.”

Professor Kristjanson went on to identify some of the ways in which Swinburne is supporting women in academia, eliminating the gender pay gap, building a culture that supports gender equity and supporting parents in the workplace.

Ms Kapalos then introduced the panellists, who shared their diverse experiences and the ways how in which they have overcome misconceptions and other challenges. Some common themes arose of discrimination and resilience in the face of circumstances and bias.

The panellists encouraged women to be true to themselves, to believe in themselves and to call out bias. As Sabrina Frederick said: “Everyone has a platform and a voice to make a difference. We, collectively, can make a change.”

Commenting on the power of storytelling to influence and effect change in all of us, Ms Kapalos said: “We can always see ourselves in someone else’s story because there are fundamentally common values that underpin all of them.” 

She urged the audience to understand the intrinsic ‘earned power’ that we have as individuals, “an autonomy that we carry throughout our lives – a voice to make a change and make a difference.”

Ms Kapalos invited guests to show their support for increasing gender equity by signing the Athena SWAN Charter – the ten principles that underpin the SAGE program and the framework under which Swinburne’s Aation Plan operates.

Staff signing the Athena Swan Charter at Swinburnes international womens day event

Gender equality at Swinburne

Swinburne has long been a champion of workplace gender equality. 

We celebrate and respect the strength that difference creates and are committed to progressing gender equality. To create a fair and equitable workplace, all genders need to enjoy the same opportunities, support, outcomes and rights. Through our award-winning Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) action plan, we have established targets and measures to help us focus on providing support and working conditions to enable our staff greater work-life balance and progression in their careers. This includes generous parental leave for all genders, flexible working arrangements, support for victims of domestic violence.