Griffith enhances gender equity in STEMM as Athena SWAN member

Dr Kate Seib in a laboratory
2016 ASM Frank Fenner recipient Dr Kate Seib

Griffith University is championing gender equality in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM), ensuring women are best positioned to reach their full potential.

Today Griffith officially launches its participation in the accreditation process to qualify for an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award.

Griffith commenced the two-year program in August 2015, which involved a comprehensive review of its workforce and how the university is working towards supporting all women across STEMM areas.

This involves an action plan to tackle the challenges faced, and already the university’s Athena SWAN work has engaged the wider Griffith community in a conversation about advancing gender equality in STEMM.

The Athena Project, which began in 1999, started as a group of dedicated women academics whoworked toadvance the representation of women in STEMM.

The project went on to supporttheScientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN)to create a national charter to promote women in STEMM, particularly with a view to getting women into leadership roles.

Today’s launch centres on the issue of gender equity with a focus on practical outcomes. Speakers include:

  • Elizabeth Broderick AO – Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Chair of Science in Australia Gender Equity(SAGE), Expert Advisory Group
  • Dr Geoff Garrett – Chief Scientist for Queensland
  • Professor Jennifer L Martin – Director, Eskitis
  • Members of the Athena SWAN team
Pro Vice Chancellor (Griffith Sciences) Professor Debra Henly
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Professor Debra Henly

Professor Debra Henly, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) said 30 per cent of Griffith’s 2015 STEMM graduates were women.

“This far exceeds the national average which is only 16 per cent, according to recent data released by the Office of the Chief Scientist,” she said.

“Although there is still much work to be done, this is an excellent start to building a strongpipeline of female for the STEMM workforce.

“Key recommendations from the Chief Scientist to achieve gender equality include eliminating stereotypes and bias, rewarding hard work and building confidence, and for organisations to be supportive and inclusive. Griffith is already taking great steps towards these goals.”

In 2015, around 30 per cent of Griffith’s junior STEMM academic workforce was women and only 20 per cent of senior STEMM academics were female.

“Unfortunately, this inequality isn’t just the story at Griffith, and statistics like these reinforce the need to address low rates of female participation in STEMM,” Prof Henly said.

“Athena SWAN provides an avenue for the university to build on our previous efforts in gender equality, reflect on the current gaps in our STEMM workforce, and build a solid action plan for the coming years, addressing the under-representation of women in our academic workforce.

Students in the lab
Griffith is proudly supporting women in science.

“Gender equality and supporting women’s careers has been a priority at Griffith for many years. This can be seen through policies and provisions in place to support women and men throughout their career, including generous parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and genuine consideration of equity matters in key processes such as performance and promotion.

“Data reviewed by our Athena SWAN self-assessment team to date has indicated that initiatives in place such as the Women’s Only Academic Promotions Sessions are having a positive impact on the career progression of women in science and health areas and across the wider university.”

Women have been appointed to the last four vacancies in the School of Engineering, which has traditionally had a very low proportion of women academic staff.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian O’Connor, and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Engagement), Professor Martin Betts, have also been recognised as Male Champions for Gender Equality at Griffith, and are helping the self-assessment team to drive gender equity and diversity at Griffith.