On the 13th of February, the University of Tasmania held an afternoon tea celebrating the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science. An estimated 170 students and staff attended the event, which focused on the importance of leadership and mentoring in achieving gender equity in the workplace.
Keynote speaker Dr Kaylene Young, currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, drew upon her experience at the University of Tasmania as a neuroscientist, a research team leader, an educator, a mentor and a woman. Dr Young’s presentation called for equality of outcome in female employment within the area of science and noted the importance of leadership and ongoing mentoring in achieving this goal.
“When I spoke to some of the women on my team, they were surprised to hear we even had a gender equity issue,” Dr Young said.
“Not only do they outnumber the men in my research team … when they looked around them, they saw so many women in senior science leadership positions that they wondered whether or not we really still had this inequity in terms of employment in the area of science – but we still do.
“We have not achieved gender equity across the different scientific institutions, or across the variety of scientific disciplines, which means that men and women in scientific roles still have quite a bit of responsibility and a lot to do to try to help us reach those targets.”
Dr Young highlighted the importance of ongoing mentorship to encourage women and help facilitate their achievement in the areas of science.
“If you ask various women in leadership positions in science why they ended up where they are, many will say they had remarkably inspiring science teachers, and teachers that could really showcase the discipline for what it could offer,” Dr Young said.
“After 20 years in neuroscience, I still love it – I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, and the more women we mentor to stand beside us as scientific leaders, the more we make those ripples into waves and the more we move towards actually being able to reach our gender equity goals in science.”
An accompanying theme discussed at the event was UTas’ ongoing participation in the Athena SWAN Charter. UTas became a signatory to the Charter which “provides an evaluation and accreditation framework to help improve gender equity policies and practices in academic institutions” in September 2016.
As part of its participation in the Charter, UTas is required to apply for the Bronze Institutional Award demonstrating that the University has “a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.” The application process involves determining where the University currently sits in terms of gender equity through data collection and analysis, followed by the development and implementation of a four-year action plan.
Currently, UTas is still in the “data collection stage”, and published a gender equity progress report in October 2017. This report, available on the UTas gender equity website, informed the design of a university gender equity survey which staff and HDR students can expect to receive in the near future. This survey will assist in identifying and informing the four-year action plan to address gender equity at UTas.