Students at the University of Sydney

Early women students and graduates

In 1881 Senate unanimously decided to allow the admission of women, and the passing of the University Amendment Act in 1884 secured the legal rights of women at Sydney University.

Courses in Economics and Commerce began to be offered in 1901. The first woman to graduate Diploma in Economics and Commerce was in 1910, and the first woman to graduate Bachelor of Economics was in 1914.

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View more information and photos about early Economics students.

Faculty of Economics 1920


1907: Courses in Economics and Commerce, qualifying for the Bachelor of Arts degree, were offered by the Department of Economics and Commerce for both matriculated and unmatriculated students.  
1909: Unmatriculated students who passed Economics and Commerce I, II and III were entitled to receive a Diploma in Economics and Commerce,
1911: The second cohort of Diploma graduates included the first woman, Edith Swain,
1913: The Department of Economics and Commerce, now in the Faculty of Arts, offered the three-year Bachelor of Economics degree, with only matriculated students being eligible, as well as the three-year Diploma in Economics and Commerce. 
  Two of the first cohort of 11 degree students for the Bachelor of Economics were women - Edith Swain, BA, Diploma in Economics and Commerce, and Winifred Lipscomb (later Herbert), BA.
1914:  The first Bachelor of Economics degrees were conferred by the University and Edith Swain, BA, Diploma in Economics and Commerce, was the first woman BEc graduate out of the first 4 graduates.  
1916: The next three women who graduated Bachelor of Economics were Winifred Lipscomb (later Herbert), Alice Perrin and Zoe Bertles.
1919: Persia Campbell (later Rice), who graduated Bachelor of Arts with a high distinction in Economics III, became Professor of Economics at Queen's University, New York.
1920: A separate Faculty of Economics was established.
1920s: Some of the growing number of women Bachelor of Economics graduates were Phyllis Le Cappelaine-Taylor (1922), Lucy Woodcock (1924) and Eleanor Gough (1925). 
1949:  Nancy Gleeson-White (later Lady Tomlinson) was the first woman to graduate Bachelor of Economics with First Class Honours (in Economic History) from the University.
1967: The following 2 women were the first to receive the degree of Master of Economics:
Leonie Still, who became Director of the Centre for Women and Business and a Professorial Fellow within the Graduate School of Management at The University of Western Australia. In 2003, she was awarded the Governor-General’s Centenary Medal for services to the Australian community through business leadership.
Margaret Power
1969: Two of the 10 women Bachelor of Economics graduates (out of 177) were:
 Helena John (later Carr) who began a successful business career.
Elizabeth Parkinson who became a silversmith, environmentalist, author and artist, setting up the
Lazy Lizard business in 1984 initially as a marketing vehicle for her various activities.
1973: The number of women Bachelor of Economics graduates had risen to 38 (out of 267). 
  Elaine Thompson was the first woman to receive a PhD in Economics. She became Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of NSW, commentator on elections and parliament, and editor of the Australasian Parliamentary Review.
1999: The number of women students overtook the number of men students, with 2,171 full- and part-time women and 2,142 men students enrolled in the Faculty.
2000: The Faculty was renamed the Faculty of Economics and Business.
2011: There were major changes in the Faculty:
– the Discipline of Economics, the Centre for International Security Studies and the Graduate School of Government were transferred to the Faculty of Arts, which became the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
– the Faculty of Economics and Business became The University of Sydney Business School, comprising the disciplines of Accounting, Business Analytics, Business Information Systems, Business Law, Finance, International Business, Marketing and Work & Organisational Studies, the Institute of Transport & Logistics Studies and the Workplace Research Centre.
2012: There were 3,447 women and 2,989 men students enrolled in the Business School.


In the early 1900s
Millicent Fanny Preston Stanley
Millicent Preston Stanley
(later Vaughan) and her
brother (who went on
to graduate) attended 
Professor RF Irvine's lectures
in Economics in 1913,
photo, The Australian
Women's Weekly,
6 November 1937,
National Library of Australia.
She became a feminist, a
politician and the first female
member of the NSW
Legislativ Assembly (1925).
Winifred Haughton Lipscomb   
Winifred Lipscombe 
(later Herbert) (BA 1913)
was one of the first two
women to be admitted to the
Bachelor of Economics
course,  in 1913.
She graduated BEc in 1916,
photo, 'The Courier Mail',
4 June 1938, National Library
of Australila
Persia Campbell 
Persia Campbell (later Rice),
who graduated BA with a
high distinction in Economics
III in 1919, became Professor
of Economics at Queen's
University, New York,
photo, The Sydney
Morning Herald,
12 September 1934,
National Library of Australia

In the 1920s
Phyllis Taylor (later Burke)

Phyllis Le Cappelaine-Taylor 
(later Burke) 
graduated BEc
in 1922, photo, The Australian
Women's Weekly,
24 October 1942,
National Library of Australia.
She became a social
reformer and housing

Eleanor Gough
Eleanor Gough
BEc in 1925,
photo, The Australian
Women's Weekly,

23 April 1938,
National Library of Australia.
She was Head of the
Department of Women's
Handicrafts, East Sydney
Technical College and
supervised a network of
metropolitan and country

In the 1930s
Mary Willmolt Debenham (later Lady Phillips)
Mary Debenham
(later Lady Phillips)
graduated BA in 1931
majoring in Economics,
photo, Sydney Morning
Herald, 20 November 1934,
National Library of Australia.
Olga De Plater
Olga De Plater, a third year
Economics students and
member of the committee
of the Sydney University
Economics Society since
1931, was elected President
of the Sydney University
Women Evening Students'
Assocation for 1934,
photo, The Sydney Morning
Herald, 13 November 1933,
National Library of Australia
Kathleen Commins

Kathleen Commins
(BA 1931) graduated BEc
in 1934. Excelling in sport,
teaching and journalism, she
was able to build a successful
career in all three fields.

Helen Davidson
Helen Davidson, an
Economics student in
1937, photo,
'The Australian Women's

Weekly', 24 April 1937,
National Library of Australia

In the 1940s
1949 women Economics graduates

Seven of the eight girls who graduated in the Faculty of Economics on 18 June 1949: front: Nancy Gleeson-White, Emily Sabatsky, Barbara Campbell and Pat Barraclough; back: Helen Paterson, Janet Cuskey and Kathlen Quilty. The 8th graduate was Miss D Llewellyn, photo, The Sunday Herald, 19 June 1949, NLA.

Nancy Gleeson-White 
Nancy Gleeson-White (later
Lady Tomlinson), who was
the first woman to graduate
Bachelor of Economics with
First Class Honours (in
Economic History) from the
University, in 1949,
photo, The Sun-Herald,
19 July 1953,
National Library of Australia.

In the 1950s
Economics students spend a day in industry

Students Judy Crossing (later White) and Barry Press watch Mary Herzog (left) and Shirley Willcocks polish toothbrush handles, when Economics students and lecturers spent a day at a factory in July 1953 to gain practical experience, photo, 'The Australian Women's Weekly', 22 July 1953, National Library of Australia.

Judy White (nee Crossing)  Judy White (nee Crossing),
graduated BEc in 1956. 
Later gaining MLitt UNE
HonMA PhD Newcastle,
she has been on many
economic Boards in the
Hunter Valley & was the
recipient of a Women 1988
Award for services to the
16 December 1954,
National Library of Australia

In the 1960s
Hilda Rolfe 
Hylda Rolfe, who graduated
MEc in 1965. In 1974 she
was economist for the
United Farmers' and
Woolgrowers' Association
of NSW and new
member of the Australian
Wool Corporation
photo, The Australian
Women's Weekly,
2 January 1974,
National Library of Australia.

Kaye Dening AM

Kaye Dening AM graduated Bachelor of Economics in 1967. By 1979, Kaye was a qualified real estate valuer and had also become the first woman in Australia to be licensed as a master builder. A pioneering woman in Australia’s property development industry, Kay is CEO of the Dening Group, photo, The Faculty of Economics & Business Alumni Magazine, March 2008.

In the 1970s
Belinda Hutchinson AM

Belinda Hutchinson AM] graduated BEc in 1976. She became a vice-president of CitiBank Australia's corporate finance division & was in charge of its financial institutions group 1981-92. A director of QBE since 1997, she became Chair of QBE Insurance in 2010, making her one of just a handful of women to chair an ASX 100 company. She was elected Chancellor of the University for a four year term from 4 February 2013, photo, courtesy Ms Hutchinson.

Heather Ridout


Heather Ridout
graduated BEc(Hons)
in 1976. Up until
April 2012 she was CEO
of the Australian
Industry Group,
photo, Engineering
Sydney Newsletter,
Autumn 2010.

In the 1980s
Stephanie Bromser 1982

Stephanie Bromser was the first woman to graduate Master in Business Administration, in 1982. She is being congratulated by Sir Hermann Black and Professor Murray Wells, photo G77_1_2012, University of Sydney Archives.

Jeni Klugman

Jeni Klugman graduated BEc in 1985 and LLB in 1987. She became the first woman NSW Rhodes Scholar, in 1988, photo from 'The Gazette', December 1987. Today she is a distinguished international economist. Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office.

Olivia Jing-Shu Ji
Olivia JingShu Ji
graduated MCom
in 2003, photo,
E&B connect,
December 2007.
She is co-founder &
of China Entrepreneurs,
now one of
CEBEX Group Brands,
President of BDP
Green Technology Co.
 Bec Hamilton  
Bec Hamilton
graduated BEc(SocSc)
(Hons) with the
University Medal in
2003. She then
graduated from
Harvard & is a
 passionate advocate
for the cause of 
genocide prevention,
photo, E&B connect,
December 2007.
Julie McKay (Global Executive MBA 2011) 
Julie McKay,
who graduated Global
Executive MBA in 2011,
is Executive Director of
UN Women Australia and
was named a 
state winner  in the 2013
Young Australian of the
Year Awards.
Michelle Sherwood
 Michelle Sherwood
who graduated Global
Executive MBA in 2012
who is the Executive
General Strategic Marketing
at Sensis, has been
nominated in two
categories for The CEO
Magazine's 2012 Executive
of the Year Awards.

Information sources

Lis Bergmann, 2013