SAGE gender equality in STEMM

15 June 2016

The University of Sydney is participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot program and currently seeks staff from all areas of the University, not only science academics, to join the SAGE Self Assessment Team (SAT) that will drive the project across campus.

In September 2015, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, committed the University to take part in the program. It promotes gender equity and diversity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) and is the Australian pilot of the successful Athena SWAN program that has been running in the United Kingdom for 10 years.

A partnership between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Australian pilot program assesses gender equality policies and practices of participants with gold, silver and bronze awards, and helps organisations establish ways to promote and retain women and gender minorities in their ranks. The SAGE steering committee is co-chaired by two University of Sydney affiliates: Professor Nalini Joshi from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Professor Susan Pond from the United States Studies Centre.

The program is one of a number of initiatives that have been implemented as part of the University's Women's Career Acceleration and Leadership Strategy that was developed to meet the 2020 diversity and inclusion goals outlined in the University's Strategic Plan. The Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Trevor Hambley, chairs the University's SAGE SAT and believes the program will help drive cultural, institutional and organisational change so that women can thrive and achieve their maximum potential in STEMM.

"SAGE at Sydney will be driven by the Vice-Chancellor and senior leaders, and will involve all staff," he said. "A critical part of the SAGE process is the development of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound) action plans that are based on detailed self-analysis of data related to gender balance and it is the role of the SAGE SAT to lead these processes."

Associate Professor Renae Ryan, Chair of the Sydney Medical School Gender Equity Committee, is a SAGE SAT member and understands the importance of such programs in promoting gender equality and diversity in STEMM.

"Women leave research and academic roles at a faster rate than men, and for those women that stay, it generally takes longer to progress to senior levels," Associate Professor Ryan observed. "Of course in some of the STEMM fields the problems arise earlier where there is already large gender imbalance at the undergraduate and postdoctoral levels."

"The SAGE program will force us to identify where the leaks are in the pipeline for all of the STEMM disciplines and come up with strategies to address these in order to attract and retain women in science. These processes will fast-track change that has been glacially slow and will lead to improvements in workplace culture that will benefit all staff."

SAGE achieves its goals through an evaluation and accreditation framework carried out by dedicated members of the University's SAGE SAT and a support team. Participants in the program will collect, analyse and present data on gender equity policies and practices in STEMM departments, and identify gaps or areas in need of improvement.