In Summary

  • Swinburne alumna wins Jean Martin Award for best PhD thesis in Sociology
  • Thesis explores gender in STEM management
  • Women see greater success in commercial biotech compared to public sector organisations

A Swinburne alumna has been recognised with a national award for best PhD thesis in Sociology for her work exploring the gender dynamics of STEM management.

The prestigious Jean Martin Award for the period of 2015 - 2017 was awarded to Swinburne alumna Dr Janine Pickering for her thesis titled Gender Dynamics in the Management of Commercial and Public Biotechnology Organisations.

“It is well understood that women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics management positions. It is not so well understood as to why this is the case,” says Dr Pickering.

Her thesis, a comparative study, shows that women enjoy relatively greater success in commercial biotech compared to public sector research organisations.

Drawing on quantitative data from 30 organisations covering 401 scientific managers, her research shows that women in commercial biotech are more likely to become managers than women working in public sector biotech, and once they are managers, they are more likely to have the same pay and conditions as their male counterparts.

Tipping the scales

Gender inequity in STEM has long been recognised, says Dr Pickering. Women are often paid less and leave STEM careers through the ‘leaky pipeline’ before they reach management positions.

“Despite efforts to address this problem for decades, the pace of change is glacial,” she says.

“This is not only a social justice issue, it’s also a business and societal issue as this vital sector is missing out on some great talent.”

Dr Pickering says that if public research organisations are serious about encouraging more women into STEM management, they should be looking to commercial biotech firms for inspiration.

A long haul

Dr Pickering says that writing a thesis is a long haul, and by the end of it you can lose sight of its significance.

“But this recognition has inspired me to share my findings with those who are keen to change the status quo. That’s why I did a PhD in the first place!” she says.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne’s Faculty of Business and Law and one of Dr Pickering’s PhD supervisors, Professor Michael Gilding, says it is the first time a Swinburne PhD graduate has won the award.

“Janine’s success has been wonderful to see and I’m proud to have played a role in helping her achieve this great outcome,” he says.

“She is doing important work that warrants recognition by the wider community and this award will be very important in doing that.”