Update from the Executive Director

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.

Wafa El-Adhami

Not Just the Pipeline but a Systems Problem: Professor Caroline McMillen

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.

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Supporting Women in Science Leadership: Professor Doug Hilton

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.

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What is SAGE? Driving Gender Equity in Australian Science

On the 15 September 2015, the SAGE Pilot was officially launched at Parliament House. The event was attended by Ministers, funding and policy stakeholders, and representatives from the 32 institutions who are participating in the Pilot. This video provides highlights of the event, where leaders discuss the importance of the SAGE Pilot in transforming gender equity and diversity in Australian science.

The video features Ministers who convene the Parliamentary Friends of Science and Parliamentary Friends of Women in Science, Mathematics and Engineering, who hosted our event. The video also includes interviews with members of the SAGE Steering Committee who explain the benefits of improving equity and diversity.

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Ending the Silent Brain Drain: Professor Jenny Martin on Supporting Women in Science

Professor Jenny Martin is an NHMRC Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, and served on the SAGE Steering Committee from 2014 to Dec 2015. She has stepped down from this role as she prepares to begin her role as Director of the Eskitis Drug Discovery Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane in March 2016

SAGE extends our heartfelt thanks to Jenny for her contribution to the SAGE Steering Committee. Jenny is a true champion of gender equity. Read more

Athena SWAN Workshop on Data and Analysis

Athena SWAN Workshop on Data and Analysis

The first of our bi-annual Athena SWAN training workshops for SAGE Pilot participants will be delivered in February 2016. Athena SWAN is a gender equity and diversity evaluation and accreditation process developed in the UK in 2005. The SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia represents the first country to adopt this process outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The SAGE Pilot includes 32 STEMM institutions who are the inaugural Athena SWAN Charter members in Australia. The Vice Chancellors and Directors of these 32 institutions have signed to uphold the 10 Athena SWAN principles that form the basis of the Athena SWAN Charter. The aim of the Charter is to address the structural barriers that stop different groups of women as well as other underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential in academia.

Charter members represent over half of the higher education sector in Australia, along with a further five medical research institutes and two publicly funded research agencies. These institutions will work towards a Bronze Athena SWAN Institutional Application, demonstrating evidence that their institutions have the capacity to eliminate gender bias and to create an inclusive culture for all.

The February workshop focuses on data collection and analysis requirements for their award application, as well as highlighting examples of best practice from the UK. Around 90% of the higher education sector belongs to the UK Athena SWAN Charter.

A member of the UK Athena SWAN Team, James Lush, will be assisting SAGE Project Manager, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, to deliver the workshop across six cities around Australia.

The workshop activities will assist members to reflect on how they might collect and analyse gender equity data for their Athena SWAN applications, as well as how to better address information gaps when evaluating gender equity issues within their institutions. Institutions can nominate up to 10 representatives to attend our workshops.

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