RMIT University is one of 32 participants in a major initiative that aims to improve the representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Pilot is a system of accreditation based on the UK’s highly successful Athena SWAN Charter where institutions receive a bronze, silver or gold award based on factors relating to gender representation, academic progression and working environment.
After qualifying for a bronze award, institutions and their individual departments can then apply for higher awards.
Members of Parliament gave bipartisan support for the project at an official launch at Parliament House, Canberra.
Speaking at the event were Karen Andrews MP, Amanda Rishworth MP, Kelly O’Dwyer MP and Richard Marles MP.
According to the Department of Education and Training, women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine are under-represented in Australia at senior levels.
Data collected from the Department indicates that while half of early career researchers and PhD graduates are women, just 17 per cent go on to become senior academics in Australian universities and research organisations.
Many STEM disciplines also have difficulty attracting women into study and this loss of talent has a serious effect on scientific advancement and economic productivity.
Associate Professor Kay Latham from the School of Applied Sciences is coordinating SAGE activities at RMIT and represented the University at the launch.
“The sense of excitement, hope and anticipation in the room was palpable,” Latham said.
“It was also really pleasing to see and hear from the number of men championing the initiative and willing to put in significant effort to make it a success.
“There is a general feeling that the SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter is the way forward; that it will really make a difference to achieving equity in STEM."
The SAGE pilot was designed to accommodate 20 participants, however demand for participation was overwhelming and more than half of Australia’s universities and medical research institutions are now involved.
Latham and a team from RMIT are set commence a review of the University while identifying areas of improvement in readiness to submit an application for a bronze award in 2018.
Story: Lawrence Martin