In Summary

  • Gender equity forum at Swinburne explores the impacts and outcomes of programs at Swinburne designed to support all genders
  • The forum was held to commemorate a year since Swinburne’s gender equity submission and action plan were recognised with a SAGE Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award

Swinburne continues to strengthen its approach to gender equity – creating outcomes that benefit all genders.

One year on from Swinburne’s gender equity submission and action plan being recognised with a SAGE Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award, the university held a forum to explore the plan’s impacts and outcomes, as well as that of its integrated programs, such as the Swinburne Women’s Academic Network (SWAN).

Swinburne’s Science in Gender Equity Australia (SAGE) Action Plan 2019 –2022 aims to improve the attraction, promotion and retention of women and gender minorities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) at Swinburne. Speaking at the forum, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Duncan Bentley, said Swinburne had an unprecedented opportunity to create long-lasting change.

“Our four-year plan is about changing the culture across the university. The scope is amazing,” he said.

“We do have a gender pay gap and are working assiduously to address this. But if we’re really going have impact we need to increase the number of women in leadership, in senior positions. This pipeline – the ecosystem we create to draw students from school to university to robust careers – is the long term goal.”

Targeting gender

Women account for 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, according to the Office of the Chief Scientist

Initiatives such as setting gender diversity targets, closing the gender pay gap and supporting women-only positions are starting to shift the dial at Swinburne  For example, Swinburne’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET) is on track to have women or gender minorities in 30 per cent of its senior roles by 2022.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Innovation and Change), Professor Sarah Maddison, told the forum that supporting women-only roles sent a message of welcome and inclusion.

“We have found that women-only roles generate significantly higher numbers of quality applications. They send a clear signal – we embrace you.”

Professor Hung Nguyen, Professor Helana Scheepers, Professor Duncan Bentley and Dr Mahnaz Shafiei.
Professor Hung Nguyen, Professor Helana Scheepers, Professor Duncan Bentley and Dr Mahnaz Shafiei show their support for gender equity. 

In addition, five Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellows – Women in STEM  have been appointed since the program was introduced in 2016.  That includes Dr Mahnaz Shafiei, who said the fellowship had been critical to creating continuity for her nanotechnology and sensing research.

“It’s very important to maintain momentum in research – especially tricky while balancing a young family. The research-only fellowship has allowed me to set up a new research lab and group, make strong industry connections, attract research funding and now to transition to a research and teaching role. The funding support, and ongoing career development through mentors and SWAN, has been fantastic.”

Supporting balance

Swinburne’s school holiday program helps parents and carers of all genders from all areas of the university balance work, holidays and family time.

Since starting in 2017, the program has grown to provide four sessions throughout the year with many repeat users.

Associate Professor Adam Deller, has used the program since its inception and told the forum it has been essential for his family.

"My experience of combining work and parenting is one of overcoming many small hurdles, rather than one big one.  This program helps Swinburne parents flip one such hurdle - childcare during school holidays - into an opportunity to spend a little extra time with our kids and let them experience our workplace."

Further Swinburne actions  

The impact of SWAN programs at Swinburne were also discussed. A total of 120 participants have been mentored and supported this past year, with the number trending upwards annually.

In 2017, more women put in applications for promotions than men, with a 76 per cent success rate.

SWAN programs have expanded beyond promotions and mentoring to provide financial support to carers, grant writing workshops and general career support across multiple disciplines.

Swinburne also continues to the support The Women in STEM Decadal Plan, developed by the Australian Academy of Science in collaboration with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. This plans guides stakeholders as they identify and implement specific actions they must take to build the strongest STEM workforce.

Read more on Swinburne’s gender equity work or contact us to get involved in SAGE at Swinburne.