Sydney an Employer of Choice for Women eight years in a row

7 March 2011

(L-R) The recipients of the 2010 Thompson Fellowships: Dr Belinda Smith, Dr Stacy Carter, Dr Alexandra Sharland and Associate Professor Alaina Ammit.
(L-R) The recipients of the 2010 Thompson Fellowships: Dr Belinda Smith, Dr Stacy Carter, Dr Alexandra Sharland and Associate Professor Alaina Ammit.

Fellowships for female academics, professional development programs and leading maternity and parental leave schemes have ensured the University of Sydney retains its status as an Employer of Choice for Women (EOCFW) in 2011.

Announced on Sunday by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), this is the eighth consecutive year that the University has received the prestigious Employer of Choice citation. Thanks to its strict criteria, just 98 organisations have been recognised nationally in 2011.

According to Mairi Steele, Acting Director of EOWA, supporting women in the workplace has benefits for business development as well as social justice:

"Bolstering gender equality in workplaces is not just a social justice issue; these organisations represent smart business management. They are positioning themselves to attract and retain the best female talent in what is still a highly competitive market for skilled employees. Women now represent just over 50 percent of university graduates and are a huge proportion of the talent pool," she said.

To enhance the careers of academic women and remedy their under-representation in senior academic positions, the university last year awarded four Thompson Fellowships. These grants of up to $60,000 allow female academics to develop and strengthen their research, providing relief from routing teaching and administrative responsibilities.

Three Brown Fellowships were also awarded, allowing those whose careers had been interrupted by sustained primary caring duties to re-establish or enhance their research.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, agrees that there is a significant mutual benefit in promoting gender equality at the university.

"The university is strongly committed to allowing staff to achieve their potential, whatever their gender, and career path," he said.

"It is clear that organisational diversity with both men and women in organisational management and leadership teams creates advantages for strategic planning and decision making. Recent initiatives like the Brown and Thompson Research Fellowships, and the longer standing Women in Leadership program assist women realise their academic and professional goals, whilst expanding the capability of the University's staff."

Dr Maree Murray, Assistant Director of the university's Staff and Student Equal Opportunity Unit, says the citation "reflects the very evident commitment of both men and women at the university to promoting gender equity".

"A positive aspect around equal opportunity for women at the university this year was witnessing the way faculties and areas sought to attract and retain women," she said.

"The strength of the business case for diversity, along with the University's commitment to social justice, meant initiatives to support, develop and advance women are evident in many parts of the University.

"I note for example, that at Campus Security, almost half the workforce is now female, reflecting the unit's need for personnel who reflect the diversity of the University's staff, students and community."

Among the wide range of other new initiatives taken up by the university this year was the Welcome to Women orientation program, which was created in response to requests for information particularly relevant to new female staff. Developed by the Staff and Student Equal Opportunity Unit, it is run in addition to the university's more general orientation program.

A professional development program for women on negotiating and influencing skills has also been created, recognising the need for more equitable representation of women at a senior level.

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