In Summary

  • Swinburne’s action to improve gender equity has been recognised with a Science and Gender Equity Australia (SAGE) Athena SWAN Bronze Award
  • The SAGE initiative helps support Australia’s higher education and research sector to monitor and improve gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)

Swinburne’s in-depth analysis and action plan towards gender equity over the past three years as part of the Science in Gender Equity Australia (SAGE) pilot has been recognised with a SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Award.

The SAGE initiative was set up to help support Australia’s higher education and research sector to monitor and improve gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).  Swinburne is a member of the inaugural pilot program, which applies the UK’s successful Athena SWAN accreditation framework.

Swinburne Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Linda Kristjanson AO said the university’s ultimate reward would be to enhance gender equity in STEMM.

“The Athena SWAN Bronze Award recognises the enquiry and efforts taken to improve gender equity at Swinburne, and of our collaboration to support transformational change as part of the broader STEMM community,” says Professor Kristjanson.

“The rigor and depth of analysis applied through the program ensure we have a blueprint for achieving practical, tangible outcomes. We recognise that systemic and cultural change is needed to improve gender equity and are already applying best practices.

“From undertaking women-only recruitment and addressing the gender pay gap to encouraging flexible work and parental leave for all staff, the actions we take will ultimately improve the workplace for all genders in all disciplines and areas.

“When the world gets better for women, it also gets better for men.”

Action for equity

Swinburne has a range of mechanisms in place to measure, monitor and support cultural and systems-based change to improve gender equity.  Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Innovation and Change) and Professor of Astrophysics Sarah Maddison leads the university’s SAGE project, and is particularly proud of the way the Swinburne community has embraced SAGE and the steps taken to date to identify issues and opportunities for real change.

“What gets measured matters – just as you can’t be what you can’t see, you can’t change what you can’t see. Measuring and monitoring progress through our SAGE action plan is key to advancing gender equity at Swinburne,” says Professor Maddison.

 “From the work of passionate individuals and teams of staff and students, to the deep data analysis and self-reflection of our culture and practices, the SAGE program offered a framework to combine our activities and approach.”

Actions initiated to improve gender equity at Swinburne include:

  • Providing five Vice-Chancellor’s Women in STEM research fellowships to date, which are also our first women-only roles in applied mathematics, chemical sciences, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and engineering
  • Pursuing donor-sponsored scholarship opportunities for women in STEM disciplines.
  • Establishing diversity targets for the university’s Engineering Practice Academy for staff and students.
  • Offering full primary care parental leave entitlements for people of all genders.
  • Developing an academic support network that drove significant increases in academic promotion, and has been replicated at other universities. 

“For Swinburne, it’s the combination of actions – big and small and at every stage of the STEMM pipeline – that will lead to sustainable change.  And none of that would be possible without our Swinburne leadership, staff and students who supported our initial involvement in the SAGE program and continue to drive change across the organisation,” says Professor Maddison.

Recognition from Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program

“SAGE extends warm congratulations to the first group of 20 institutions that have completed the pathway to accreditation – especially to the awardees. Their journey has been one of reflective analysis of their organisation, its culture, systems and structures – a genuine investment and commitment to improve gender equity and diversity,” says SAGE Executive Director says Dr Wafa El-Adhami.

“For transformational change and large cultural shifts, we all need to work together and that is exactly what has happened on the SAGE journey. Congratulations to everyone who has been part of this pioneering and bold initiative.”

About the SAGE Athena SWAN program

The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative was established to pilot the UK’s Athena SWAN Charter 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 adapting 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 system and structural barriers, as well as culture that hinder participation and advancement of women and minority groups in organisations – making it an effective enabling mechanism for transformational change.

The first round of SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Awards was conferred in Canberra on 5 December 2018. Fifty per cent of Australia’s higher education and research sector is now part of the pilot program.