SAGE Pilot Launch & Beyond

The SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia was officially launched on 16 September 2015 at Parliament House, Canberra. The event was hosted by two Parliamentary Friendship Groups: the Parliamentary Friends of Science and the Parliamentary Friends of Women in Science, Maths and Engineering. The SAGE Launch was attended by Ministers and Senators as well as senior leaders from STEMM agencies, and representatives from each of the 32 institutions taking part in the pilot program.


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Officiated by Professor Andrew Holmes, President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Holmes acknowledged that:

most science disciplines are dominated by men in senior positions, despite the fact that roughly equal numbers of men and women study science and start science careers. Not only is this inherently inequitable and unfair, but the loss of women from science also represents a very substantial cost to Australia in training, talent and opportunities for scientific innovation.

Notable speakers included The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, The Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP, The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, The Hon Richard Marles MP and Dr Susan Pond, Vice President of ATSE and SAGE Steering Committee member.

SAGE Steering Committee Co-Chair and Nobel laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt, gave a formal address by video, as did David Ruebain, CEO of the Equality Challenge Unit, who manages the original Athena SWAN program in the UK. Award-winning political journalist, Lyndal Curtis, facilitated a panel discussion on women in science leadership.

Australia needs more women in science leadership

The SAGE Panel consisted of SAGE Steering Committee members: Co-Chair Professor Nalini Joshi, Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow in Mathematics and the Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Sydney; Professor Sharon Bell, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Charles Darwin University; and Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, Scientist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Co-Founder of Women in Science AUSTRALIA.


Dr Evans-Galea discussed issues of inequity in terms of socialisation and cultural dynamics: research shows that when high school students are asked to draw a scientist, they draw a white-haired man. The SAGE Pilot is seeking to change this picture, by looking at discipline-specific issues hampering different areas of STEMM at every stage; from junior researchers to senior leaders.

Significance of the SAGE Pilot Launch

After the event, Dr Evans-Galea summarised the significance of the SAGE Pilot Launch:

Transformational times have arrived and history has been made. Celebrate the moment and look ahead with optimism. The gender landscape of science is going to change, so dream big and go for it!

Professor Jenny Martin, SAGE Steering Committee member, also reflected on the day, noting the SAGE Pilot Launch was the first step on a long but determined journey to make the STEMM sector equitable and inclusive to all:

Clearly, we have a long way to go when we struggle to reach 1 in 5 women STEMM professors. The SAGE pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia is only the first step on a long road towards a new norm of true gender equality. Nevertheless, my heart sings knowing that the winds of change are finally blowing through the crusty old cobwebbed halls of science in Australia.

The #SAGEPilot Launch was a trending topic on Twitter for two days. The Academy of Science collated some of the highlights, which included news and social media coverage. Science AlertABC AM News, the Sydney Morning Herald and Opinion, and The Conversation all featured news on the Pilot Launch.

Video excerpts of speeches and the panel discussion from the launch will be available for viewing soon on the SAGE website at

Where to next?

SAGE Project Manager, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, has now commenced a two-month tour around Australia visiting each of the participating institutions to conduct presentations for faculty, students and staff on the Athena SWAN principles and methodology. Bi-monthly workshops begin in February 2016, as well as an annual forum in June 2016, along with other training and consultation activities that form a broader, ongoing program of work to support SAGE Pilot participants. More on this exciting program soon!

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