The University of Newcastle, Australia

Driving positive change

Thursday, 5 November 2015

I am delighted to announce that UON has once again been recognised as an Employer of Choice for Workplace Gender Equality. As described by the Workplace for Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) – the Government administrator of the program - the citation places UON "at the frontline of driving positive change and setting the gold standard for inclusive workplaces".

Employer of Choice for Gender EqualityIn 2015 we are the sole representative of the Hunter region and among only 90 organisations nationwide to receive the citation. The achievement reflects the range of policies and procedures we have in place at UON to ensure every member of staff can thrive in their work. The citation also acknowledges the improvements we have recorded since last year in working to achieve gender balance in our leadership group, senior levels of academia, and among professional leaders to set the standard for the whole organisation.

In 2015, the Academic Women in Leadership program graduated its 7th UON cohort and we will ensure it continues to provide a valuable development opportunity for women in research and teaching. Our efforts to ensure staff can work flexibly so they can manage their family responsibilities alongside their work is an important part of the culture of UON and extends to all staff, not just new mothers.SPP team

While I am immensely proud that our University is setting the pace for gender equality in higher education, we must recognise that this issue is far from solved. The fact that we are among only 90 organisations across the country deemed to be driving positive change only increases our responsibility. We cannot be complacent - there is always more we can and should be doing.

Turning our focus to STEM

I am pleased that our University is leveraging its momentum to begin to address the gender imbalances within the STEM disciplines. While I have been fortunate to work with dedicated colleagues throughout my scientific research career, there were few senior women one could look to as role models across the STEM fields. I recall being reassured by colleagues in the 1980s that there would be a 'pipeline' of bright women scientists coming through into professorial and leadership positions. To my disappointment, in 2015, there is still a significant gender imbalance in STEM careers, particularly at the leadership level.  So I am delighted that UON is among the first Australian universities to pilot the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program under the Athena Swan charter, which was initiated by the Australian Academy of Science this year. This presents an opportunity for UON to be at the forefront of implementing interventions to change the 'system' and hopefully the outcomes. Next week, on Wednesday 11 November, we will welcome Dr Zuleyka Zevallos from the SAGE program to UON.

Professor Deb HodgsonTo launch the pilot, Professor Deb Hodgson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will facilitate an information session with Dr Zevallos, which will provide staff with an opportunity to learn more about the SAGE pilot and the role we can play. While the program is specific to the STEM disciplines, I encourage any staff members, academic or professional, and students with an interest in addressing gender equity issues to attend this introductory meeting.

Following this session, we can look forward to learning more from Professor Hodgson (our SAGE Champion) about how the pilot will be implemented at UON and how you can take part. Our selection into this exciting program is a great win for the University as we strive to attract and nurture the best researchers in all fields and I extend a warm thanks to the team involved in securing the University's participation.

Recognising our strong track record, our ongoing focus on achieving gender equality, and our access to learned colleagues who work to address these issues on a daily basis, the University is well-placed to lead the charge on gender equality.  Times do and will change and I look forward to seeing talented women fulfil their potential across the STEM disciplines at UON - but it will take hard work and persistence to ensure we can meet the standards set by the Athena Swan Charter- so time to roll up the sleeves and fix that leaky pipeline!  


Further information about the SAGE Pilot Information Session

Wednesday 11 November 2015 | Richardson Wing Theatre

10am Morning Tea | 10.45am - 12.15pm Information session

STEM discipline staff will receive an invitation from Professor Deb Hodgson. Other staff can register their interest in attending by emailing