Employer of Choice for Women

The University has again been named as an ‘Employer of Choice for Women’ by the Australian government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA). The citation was announced on Tuesday 13 March and gives public recognition to a range of University employment initiatives designed specifically for women.

Awarded to the University for the past nine years, the prestigious citation acknowledges women-friendly, non-government organisations that have more than 100 staff. Organisations are required to have demonstrated policies and practices that recognise and advance their female workforce. The University was one of 126 organisations that achieved a citation for the 2011 round.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence thanked all the staff whose efforts resulted in the University being able to achieve this citation:

“The citation acknowledges the University's commitment to addressing the under-representation of women in senior management, and the need to improve gender pay equity.”

“The trends are positive, but we have more work to do. I am delighted to see a strong commitment, captured by this citation, to removing the barriers to women, and fostering and engaging them, across all areas of the University. The University will continue to build on this commitment to become a leading employer in utilising diversity to provide better outcomes for all.’’

In order to proactively advance equal opportunity for women, especially in relation to representation in senior leadership roles and in relation to pay, the University has compiled gender equity profiles for all faculties and administrative portfolios. These profiles enable the University to provide targeted assistance. An example of where the profiles are used is where women academics are specifically identified and encouraged to apply for a promotion, especially those women who are aiming to apply for senior positions (levels D and E) and whose records suggest they may be ready. The academic promotion application form has been adjusted to give more prominence to the concept of ‘merit relative to opportunity’. This concept aims to cover women who may have experienced a reduced range of career opportunities (typically, because they have been on carers’ duties). A speaker from the Staff and Student Equal Opportunity Unit (SSEOU) also attends and advises at preparatory sessions for academic promotion applicants and promotion selection panel members.

Examples of local initiatives that are in place for women include:

  • A local arrangement in the Faculty of Veterinary Science whereby academic staff who are about to take maternity leave are able to present proposals for financial support for their teaching and research activities – covering their time on leave and subsequent return to work. This aims to ensure continuity in teaching and support productivity in research.
  • The Women in Science project offers a range of lunchtime networking opportunities that are targeted at different categories of junior women academics, as well as the organisation of a seminar series of influential women presenting on topics of relevance.

In 2011 the University ran a workshop on career development for academic women in non-traditional areas. The first workshop was targeted at women at academic levels A through to C that work in the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, the Faculty of Science, and the Faculty of Veterinary Science. It also ran a professional development program for women on negotiating and influencing skills. The 'Women in Leadership' program was offered on satellite campuses in New South Wales. A customised version was held for women in the Sydney Medical School’s clinical School of Rural Health who are located in Orange and Dubbo. Planning is underway for this program to become available to female postgraduate students. The SSEOU is aiming to conduct a further range of workshops in the future.

The University has also offered a range of equity fellowships (that commenced in 2009). The Thomson fellowships aim to increase the numbers and proportion of women who are ready to apply for promotion to academic levels D and E. The Brown fellowships provide assistance for researchers whose careers have been interrupted by carer duties. The fellowships have received a high number of applications – indicating that there is a real need for these types of initiatives. In total, 23 fellowships have been awarded to date – all to female staff. Positive outcomes for female staff have already been demonstrated in the final evaluation report in a longitudinal review of the first three cohorts of equity fellows conducted by the University’s Workplace Research Centre.