As we move into our second year of the Pilot with a newly appointed Expert Advisory Group and senior leadership team, our priorities and commitment to the 40 charter member institutes will be centred on the following four dimensions of support:
A. Enabling members to fulfil their commitment to the ten Charter principles by facilitating access to the UK Equality Challenge Unit’s resources and by developing guidelines, processes and best practices in consultation with the member institutions.
B. Encourage charter members to build institutional capabilities. SAGE is developing engagement activities including national site visits and workshops led by leaders from the Australian sector with experience in Athena Swan; opportunities to workshop data analysis, issues identification and action planning; potential international visits from UK academics and researchers to share experience in Athena Swan; exploring networking opportunities with UK institutes experienced with Athena Swan; and other activities to be identified in consultation with the pilot charter members.
C. Shaping the future accreditation framework and model. We will do this by setting transparent and consultative processes and practices. In addition to working closely with the SAGE Expert Advisory Group, we will seek input and feedback from our charter members. Establishment of the Panel of Assessors and resources is one such priority to be progressed over the coming months.
D. Evaluate our approach, practice and implementation of the pilot. We will commission an independent evaluation so as to ensure that we continue to deliver effective and efficient service to all SAGE members, funders, partners and stakeholders over the course of SAGE implementation and into the long term to support members on their journey to transformative change.
What are our next steps?
We will continue SAGE institutional visits to charter members throughout October, whilst also participating in the SAGE regional networks.
New recruits will join the SAGE team by early November 2016, ensuring enhanced capacity to support members and stakeholders.
We are putting together a sub-group of the Expert Advisory Group to advise on data to guide benchmarking, which has Prof. Sharon Bell and Dr. Roslyn Princely as members. We welcome emailed nominations from all SAGE charter members to contribute to the work on data to guide benchmarking.
Planning and preparation for the Panel of Assessors has commenced; draft guidance and process documents will be shared for consultation.
The SAGE evaluation framework is currently being scoped with the view to release a request for tender to undertake an independent evaluation of the Pilot. The draft scope will also be shared with members for consultation prior to going to market.
It is now almost four months since I was appointed to the role of Executive Director SAGE, and so it is timely that I share updates on my journey so far.
Along with Dr Saraid Billiards, our new Head of Strategy & Engagement, I have been on the road convening workshops, holding the inaugural meeting of the SAGE Expert Advisory Group (EAG) and conducting SAGE institutional visits across Australia.
The August workshops provided us an excellent opportunity to meet representatives from most of the institutions participating in the SAGE pilot and to gather feedback on their experience and progress through thus far. We also explored views and insights on the suitability of the Athena Swan accreditation framework for the Australian context and elements that will require adaptation or de novo development. Importantly, we learnt about the range of workplace issues emerging from data analyses and the many good practices already under way in support of gender equality and diversity; these will no doubt provide an excellent resource for Australian best practices to be shared nationally.
In September, SAGE was host to Sarah Dickinson-Hyams, Head of Equality Charters of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), UK and a member of the SAGE Expert Advisory Group. Sarah worked with us around training support from the ECU, access to ECU guidance and resources and planning to establish the Assessment Panels in readiness for the first set of Athena SWAN Bronze application submissions due in quarter 1 of 2018.
September also saw us progress visitation to the institutions taking part in the second cohort of the pilot, meeting with senior leaders and other staff members responsible for working on the Athena SWAN Bronze Application. It is rewarding to share the excitement and commitment of the charter members, and to experience first-hand the many approaches and activities institutes put in train upon launching their SAGE journey.
I can certainly say that it has been a busy and rewarding three months, characterised by insightful learning coupled with passion and commitment to advance gender equality and diversity in STEMM across the Australian higher education and research sectors.
So, while it feels like plenty has happened we know there is much more to do over the coming months.
Eight new institutions were welcomed into the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN at the SAGE Symposium in Sydney, on 24 June 2016. They joined the 32 existing Athena SWAN Charter Members in Australia.
The eight new institutions are:
Australian Astronomical Observatory
Defence Science and Technology Group
Federation University Australia
James Cook University
University of the Sunshine Coast
This brings the total number of organisation participating in the SAGE Pilot to 40 institutions which includes 30 universities; six medical research institutes and four publicly funded research agencies.
In joining the Pilot, each institution has declared their commitment to the 10 Principles of the Athena SWAN Charter. The Vice Chancellor or Director of each institution has undertaken a commitment to support and resource their respective institutes to lead an evidence-based evaluation of policy, practices and cultural change to drive gender equity and diversity.
The SAGE Pilot is calling for applications from up to eight institutions among universities, medical research institutes, and publicly funded research agencies to join the SAGE Pilot in 2016. Successful applicants will join 32 participating institutions as members of the SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia.
Successful applicants will commence work as part of the Pilot in September 2016, and undertake to work towards an Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award.
Professor Caroline McMillen is the University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor and President and a Member of the SAGE Steering Committee
In this video, Professor Caroline McMillen talks about the importance of the program from the perspective of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, one of 32 institutions participating in the SAGE Pilot. Professor McMillen says:
I came into my science career some 30 years ago and it was very clear, as a young scientist, that the problems of gender discrimination, of issues of equity and women’s careers were really off the path. What I have found, 30 years later, is that the problem has not been solved. It’s not a pipeline problem – it’s a systems problem.
Professor Douglas Hilton, FAA, FTSE, FAHMS is Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and a member of the SAGE Steering Committee.
Professor Doug Hilton is excited about the SAGE Pilot of Athena Swan because it presents an opportunity for the research and science sector to address the problem of gender equity in a collaborative manner. Doug feels that too often the solutions to gender equity occur in single institutions. With the SAGE Pilot, institutions can learn from each other, while also drawing on a national framework to collectively address the problem of gender equity.
In this interview, Doug talks about his concerns that gender inequity leads to a waste of productivity and training within the science sector.
Doug says that while women are often well represented in PhD studies and postdoctoral roles in many STEMM fields, women nevertheless tend to drop out of the system at the leadership level. Doug says that striving to keep the best scientists in the country in senior roles increases the opportunity to make important scientific discoveries.
If we disenfranchise half of our population, then I think we live in a society that’s not as decent as it should be.