The SAGE Forum was held on 25–26 November 2014, to address the issue of gender imbalance in science. The outcome was strong sector support for a Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter.
The Forum was hosted by the Australian Academy of Science, with support from the Office of the Chief Scientist. The Forum was attended by around 140 leaders and policy representatives from universities, medical research institutes, government research bodies, and research funders. The Forum participants identified critical issues affecting gender equity in STEM. They also gauged sector interest about how to best target gender inequity and explored how the SAGE Forum could be further developed to coordinate national action on gender equity in STEM. The outcome of this meeting was strong sector support for development of a program based on the Athena SWAN Charter, with a view to retaining and promoting the research excellence of women scientists in Australia.
The outcomes of the SAGE Forum, including discussion of the Athena SWAN Charter and its application to the Australian context, has been published in the SAGE Forum Workshop Summary Report.
SAGE Forum Workshop Summary Report
The SAGE Forum Workshop Summary Report provides an overview of the discussions that took place at the SAGE Forum in November 2014. The report demonstrates broad consensus that the Athena SWAN Charter provides an excellent vehicle by which Australia could quickly make major strides to address gender equity issues within the science sector. Below are the key highlights of the Report:
- The SAGE Forum found widespread agreement among STEM institutions that cultural change is needed to better enable scientists, regardless of their gender, to thrive in our research community. The Forum identified that improving women’s participation in STEM will help maintain the talent and highest standards for science in Australia.
- While the gender balance at the PhD and post-doctoral stages of science careers is now even across most scientific disciplines, the proportion of woman in scientific careers is still declining with level of appointment. Less than one in five professorial positions in science are occupied by women.
- The workshop brought together senior representatives of universities, medical research institutes, science funding agencies, government research organisations, other stakeholders and the Equality Challenge Unit which runs the Athena SWAN Charter in the UK (see section 3).
- There was widespread support for the Academy to establish a forum called “Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE)” to create a catalyst for change across the sector.
- This report summarises the key issues raised by participants at the SAGE Forum Workshop, and includes the recommendations made by the workshop to adopt an approach similar to the Athena SWAN Charter in Australia.
- The workshop agreed that the potentially significant impact arising from the implementation of the Athena SWAN approach may need adaptation to the Australian context.
The Australian Academy of Science gratefully acknowledges the support it received from the Office of the Chief Scientist to host the SAGE Forum Workshop on 25-26 November 2014.