Senior Leadership

Institutional Change Marathon


Despite efforts to address gender inequalities in universities and research institutes there is evidence to show that such inequality still exists, and is impacting on organisations’ capacity to fully realise their potential. Most organisations are committed to addressing the barriers to full gender equality, and achieving an improved professional environment for both women and men that supports and rewards diversity | Cutler (2008) . Tackling the unequal representation of women in science requires systemic organisational culture change, and must therefore engage a broad range of people across all levels and areas of the organisation. Change is a marathon, not a sprint, for organisations as well as for individuals.

Focusing on equality of outcomes not only benefits the women and men who work within the organisation, it also leads to improved organisational performance. Despite the fact that women form almost half of those in Australia with post-graduate qualifications in chemistry or biological sciences (Census 2011) women are underrepresented in senior roles. This is not due to lack of talent, nor lack of ambition in women scientists. Engaging with and addressing the issues underlying the lack of female representation at all levels of the science research workforce requires engagement with several key questions:

  1. Is identifying and promoting female scientists a top priority for our Vice Chancellor/Director/CEO, Leadership Team/Executive and Board?
  2. Are we appointing and retaining our female scientists?
  3. Is organisational culture, including promotions processes, a contributing factor to attrition?
  4. Are we offering security of employment commensurate with expectations and needs of staff and the resource base available to the organisation?
  5. What does our organisational profile and pay distribution by gender tell us?
  6. Are we developing and managing our female scientists for senior roles?

Women in the Science Research Workforce: Identifying and Sustaining the Diversity Advantage, was funded as an ARC Linkage project 2011-2014 (LP110200480).
Project Cis were Professor Sharon Bell and Professor Lyn Yates. The project was hosted by the University of Melbourne.