Caroline McMillen: from the VC's Desk
With semester two now in full swing and our campuses once again vibrant with the 'busyness' of university life, colleagues are continuing the important work of building on our world-class research performance and delivering engaging teaching and learning experiences to our students. Across all levels of the institution, staff are also actively engaged in delivering NeW Directions strategies and initiatives, with planning for our 2014 priorities currently underway.
One important milestone that we will celebrate this week is the publication of two key plans relating to the University’s commitment to equity, diversity and an inclusive environment for our staff and students. Our Equity and Diversity Management Plan, submitted to the NSW Government, provides a "roadmap" for the University to achieve its vision of providing opportunities for people with ability, regardless of their background and experiences. This plan supports the aspirations of NeW Directions, and for the first time will be supported by annual action plans that address the needs of specific equity target groups to ensure our strategies remain current and flexible.
In July, we also lodged with the Australian Government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency a report detailing how we are tracking on the important goal of equal representation of men and women across all levels of the organisation. It is encouraging to see that as of March 2013, the gender salary gap across all but two levels was well under 15 per cent in comparison to the national average of 17 per cent. You can access this report here.
Equity and social justice are an integral part of the University's "DNA", as reflected in our institutional values. Our very first Equity and Diversity Management Plan was produced in 1984, and reading this document from nearly three decades ago, it is clear that it takes solid commitment over time to build success. For instance, a key strategy in the 1984 plan was to lobby for better access and support for Indigenous students – initiatives that paved the way for UoN to become a leader not only in Indigenous education but also Indigenous staff representation. From this, I am proud to say that the proportion of UoN staff who identify as Indigenous currently stands at 2.8 per cent - almost triple the sector average of 1 per cent. The recent Behrendt Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education also praised the University's whole-of-institution approach to Indigenous engagement, as well as our strategy of "growing our own" Indigenous workforce through professional development and mentoring opportunities.
We have also made great progress in the provision of conditions that support work-life balance - the hallmark of a modern workplace. In 1984, unpaid 'maternity' leave was only available to female professional staff. So far in 2013, a total of 142 academic and professional staff members have accessed parental leave, including 16 men. In 1984, the University was also beginning discussions about the possibility of providing childcare on campus and as a result our staff today have access to three services at Callaghan and one at Ourimbah.
As an Employer of Choice for Women since 2009, we will continue to address challenges facing women as they build their careers. I am pleased to see our representation of women across the organisation is a healthy 60.8 per cent - well above our 1984 figure of 34 per cent and the NSW government's current benchmark of 50 per cent. Women in senior positions sit at 38 per cent and senior academic representation remains steady at 31 per cent - a significant improvement from 1984 where we had only one female professor and one female associate professor!
In 2013, we will also roll out important initiatives such as the Equity Research Fellowships, the Disability Action Plan, and the development of a Multicultural Policies and Services Program to help provide our staff with the tools to build capability within an environment that is supportive and inclusive.
While much has changed over the last 30 years, there is still room for improvement on our equity and diversity performance. From this year Annual Faculty Action Plans will have a focus on gender, and on strategies to help female academic and professional staff navigate the "labyrinth" of career pathways and development. In 1984, the idea that we would be a leader in Indigenous education, or that the percentage of female professors would jump from 0.2 per cent to 24 per cent, may well have seemed overwhelming prospects. Just as we did then, though, I am confident that we will work together to take the next steps in the University's proud history of access, equity and a fairer environment for all.