Translating what she says into action – profiling Jane Latimer

You would definitely have heard of Liz Broderick AO FTSE – Australia’s longest serving Sex Discrimination Commissioner, from 2007 to 2015, as well as being the Chair of the SAGE Pilot Expert Advisory Group and the founder and convener of the Male Champions of Change (MCC) initiative.
But you may or may not know that Elizabeth has a twin sister, Jane Latimer.

photo: Jane Latimer

Professor Latimer wears a number of hats for the different roles in her busy working life and multi-dimensional career – all of which neatly complement her twin sister’s calling.

Her main role is Professor in the School of Public Health and Deputy Director of the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, a partnership between the Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney.

But she also works as Director, Strategy and Engagement for Elizabeth Broderick and Co, working with her sister and a small team to inspire leaders locally and globally, and as an advisor to SAGE.

Human rights-based approaches

The work at Elizabeth Broderick and Co is often in male-dominated areas with mainly male leaders and a rigorous approach is offered to shift people’s and system’s thinking, particularly in the area of gender equality.

“We focus on organisational culture, creating sustainable changes using social innovation and human rights-based approaches,” said Professor Latimer.

Her work with her twin sister Liz started around 10 years ago.

“She got me involved in a project working with strong Aboriginal leaders in remote north-western Australia.”

The project was a collaboration involving the Aboriginal communities, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the University of Sydney.

“We raised the voices of Aboriginal women struggling to improve the lives of children living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and, with significant input from my sister Liz and Mick Gooda, Australia’s former Social Justice Commissioner, raised awareness of this condition throughout Australia, ultimately influencing Government policy and health practice,” she said.

Professor Latimer says that she and her sister get excited about the same things.

Open to ideas

“Growing up, mum and dad made sure we had a strong sense of social justice and that still shines through.

“We understand each other and complement one another. We both try to listen closely, are happy to change our minds, have different insights into issues and are very open to ideas and innovation.

“And that’s why gender equality, STEMM and the SAGE Pilot interest us both equally,” she said.

Through all her work roles, Dr Latimer has worked to accelerate women’s careers in STEMM.

“If women continue to drop out of STEMM in the higher education and research sector at the rate that they have been, it will be such a loss of talent for Australia.

Vital sector for the future

“In the future, 75 per cent of jobs will require STEMM skills, so it is paramount that Australia has an available STEMM workforce that is gender balanced and inclusive of women,” she said.

“The SAGE and MCC initiatives are helping to fix the system and turn the tide and, as such, are extremely rewarding to be involved with.”

Recently Professor Latimer co-authored a correspondence article, “Australia’s strategy to achieve gender equality in STEM”, which featured in The Lancet “Advancing Women in Science, Medicine and Global Health series” published in February. Co-authors were Somali Cerise, Pavel V Ovseiko, Jill M Rathbone, Saraid S Billiards and Dr Wafa El-Adhami.

The article examines both MCC and SAGE initiatives in Australia and how they work, as well as reporting on a collaborative project between the two to help accelerate change, drawing upon the Leadership Shadow. The Leadership Shadow is a reflective analytical tool to strengthen personal leadership on gender equality.

Engaging senior male leaders

“Many STEMM institutions face a real challenge in engaging senior male leaders to personally drive gender equality actions within their workplace.

“Men sometimes feel gender equality is an issue for women and that they have little of value to add,” said Professor Latimer.

The project convened a small group of Vice-Chancellors and Directors from SAGE member institutions, who were asked to reflect on their personal leadership and identify practical actions they could take to accelerate progress on gender equality. This exercise has been widely used in the MCC initiative.

“This project shared learnings from the MCC programs with SAGE institutions on effective gender equality leadership, and the practical actions needed to strengthen institutional performance on gender equality,” she said.

“An evaluation of the project is due later this year and, if the initial findings show benefit, the tool will be made available to all SAGE senior leaders, both men and women.”

A powerful foot in both camps

Like her twin sister Liz – a lawyer – who runs her own company, works in the gender equality space, and with MCC and the United Nations, Professor Latimer has a foot in both camps.

She works in STEMM at the University of Sydney, in her sister’s company and is also helping to fix the system for women and minorities in STEMM through her work with SAGE and MCC.

“I think having a foot in both camps is good for both Liz and myself,” she said.

“Over the years we have learned to merge learnings, make strategic choices and work flexibly with all leadership levels in what we do and what we have achieved.”

In 2014, Jane Latimer was named as one of “Australia’s Most Powerful Part-Timers” by Women’s Agenda … and now I think we understand why!