The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON Vice-Chancellor Speaks on Women & Innovation for DFAT International Women’s Day Leadership Events Across Asia

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The University of Newcastle’s (UON) Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Caroline McMillen, is participating in International Women’s Day engagements in Indonesia, Japan, China and Hong Kong supported and organised by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), focussing on the key role of women and innovation.

Celebrated on 8 March with the theme of ‘Pledge for Parity’, International Women’s Day will be supported by Australian Embassies and Consulates-General through a series of high profile events, public lectures and engagements with senior political, business and university leaders from 1 to 11 March.

During her program in Jakarta, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hong Kong the UON Vice-Chancellor will discuss the importance of gender equity in building knowledge and innovation-based economies.

Professor McMillen said she was delighted to have been invited by DFAT to engage with key partners and leaders in Asia on the importance of women in leadership in STEMM, research and innovation.

“As research and innovation in STEMM disciplines become increasingly important economic drivers, the development of world-class talent is critical. Open and diverse scientific communities help realise this important goal.”

Writing in the Australian Financial Review on 7 March, the Vice-Chancellor said gender equity is essential to ensuring Australia utilises its STEMM talent pool.

“In Australia, over half of science based PhDs are achieved by women, and about half of our early career scientists and researchers are female – but there is a significant attrition in the proportion of these women who move up the career ladder to senior leadership positions in either industry or research in these fields. There is a high "quit rate" of between 39 and 56 per cent of women across the science, engineering and technology professions and currently less than 20 per cent of professors in the sciences are women.

“This represents a significant waste of expertise, talent and investment, and challenges the base of our innovation capacity and productivity at a time when it is predicted that up to 40 per cent of jobs across Australia will be lost to automation over the next 20 years and that new jobs will be built on new science and new technologies.

“The contributors to the lack of female leadership in the STEMM disciplines in the laboratories, offices and board rooms across Australia are complex. They include issues related to career structures in STEMM disciplines, which have not substantially changed over the last 50 years and the effect of the lack of visible female leadership on the aspirations of emerging female leaders. It is these issues that are being addressed by the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program, an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering set up to address gender equity issues in the STEMM sector,” said Professor McMillen.

UON is one of the pilot institutions participating in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative - which aims to reach gender parity in science leadership, and is a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality in Australia.

In 2015 the University of Newcastle ranked 8th nationally for research 'well above world standard' in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment, with 90% of research rated 'at world standard' or above.

Professor McMillen said an academic culture that celebrates diversity and is committed to equity and excellence was key to UON’s research and innovation success.

Follow Professor Caroline McMillen on Twitter for updates from the tour.

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