Targeting gender equity at work and on campus
In late July, representatives from industry, peak bodies, and the public sector came together to explore strategies to implement STEMM gender workforce targets at a symposium hosted by the UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.
Traditionally, the male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) struggle, both with attracting and with keeping female talent. Women make up just 27 per cent of the Australian workforce in STEM according to the CSIRO, and in the male-dominated fields of IT and engineering the proportion is even lower.
“In the STEMM disciplines, where new discoveries have the potential to significantly benefit our economy, environment and society, we cannot accept the consequences of a continuing and systematic lack of diversity,” said UTS Provost and Senior Vice President, Professor Andrew Parfitt.
"Past attempts at improving diversity by expecting the pipeline from schooling to the professions to yield results have not delivered the outcomes we wish for. After decades of effort we now need to look at different approaches, and invest the necessary resources," he added.
Introducing targets and quotas to workplaces, and the factors that contribute to their successful implementation or failure—including staff buy-in (whether male or female), the role of mentors, and the importance of collecting data to accurately measure outcomes—were key themes for the day.
Diverse perspectives were canvased with speakers from peak bodies, higher education and industry including Libby Lyons, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency; Sally Elson, from MYOB Group; and Dr Margaret Hartley from the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. Dr Berice Anning, Manager of Indigenous Employment at UTS, spoke on the sector-leading Wingara Indigenous Employment Strategy.
The value of different viewpoints was also on display in workshops that got participants talking and thinking about how the issues discussed affected different people at different stages of their careers. An emerging theme was ways in which a ‘cultural glass ceiling’ could impact the way gender equity programs are implemented, whatever the organisation.
"Just as with any other business strategy, successful implementation of gender targets and quotas requires planning and leadership buy-in. Equal Futures at UTS is working with faculties right across the university, supporting talented women to stay in STEMM careers," said Verity Firth, Executive Director at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.
Today shows us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, but that we are all in this together.”
Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion
A report on outcomes from the symposium will be available from the Centre for Social and Inclusion website September.
The symposium was held as part of UTS’s Athena SWAN program which supports gender equity across the university. As part of this program, UTS has set a target of 40 per cent academic women in STEMM by 2022.