RMIT first Victorian university to win Cygnet Award

RMIT first Victorian university to win Cygnet Award

RMIT is the first Victorian university to be awarded a SAGE Cygnet Award, just the third Cygnet Award to be given nationally.

The SAGE Cygnet Award has been awarded to RMIT for work to remove barriers in the recruitment of women and gender-diverse people into academic STEMM positions. It recognises the progress and impact RMIT has made in addressing this specific barrier to gender equity, diversity and inclusion.

RMIT has achieved significant changes to the representation of women in STEMM over the past several years, with the percentage gap of women in leadership and at entry levels, narrowing immensely.

RMIT’s STEM College now has 50 per cent women in the Executive Leadership Group compared to 100 per cent men in 2019. Compared to the 2015–2017 period, marked improvements were seen across 2018–2021. On average, 19 per cent more women applied for STEMM roles, and 36 per cent more women were appointed. The number of women appointed to senior-level STEMM roles also rose by 60 per cent.

“We are delighted to have achieved our first Cygnet Award, for RMIT to be recognised for its tireless commitment to gender equality and for achieving such growth in the representation of women in STEMM at the University. We are one step closer to Silver!” said Professor Kay Latham, RMIT Dean of STEMM Diversity and Inclusion

“The Award reaffirms that we are on the right path, that we continue our commitment as an inclusive, values-led employer through inclusive hiring practices, together with strategies to build and support the development of our current employees.” 

Kay Latham smiling at camera holding a map of Australia Professor Kay Latham was appointed Dean of STEMM Diversity and Inclusion in a Victorian-first initiative. Source: RMIT

SAGE CEO Dr Janin Bredehoeft said, “the evidence from RMIT shows that we can increase diversity in STEMM by taking a systemic change approach to recruitment. It’s a timely reminder, in light of the Government’s upcoming Diversity in STEM review.” 

“SAGE awards encourage organisations to evaluate and showcase their gender equity and diversity outcomes, which in turn helps others invest in actions that work. I’m very pleased to present RMIT with their first Cygnet Award – congratulations to the team on their phenomenal work.”

Building representation 

To increase gender diversity the RMIT Athena SWAN team, in collaboration with leaders and experts across the University, have implemented a range of initiatives. 

Special Measures recruitment, where women/gender-diverse only recruitment rounds were held for certain positions. This increased the proportion of applications from women across STEMM by 9 per cent over the intervention period from 2018 to 2021, with STEM College’s School of Engineering and the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences reporting the greatest increase of 11 per cent.  

RMIT also introduced Achievement Relative to Opportunity (ARtO) in academic recruitment, a move towards a positive acknowledgement of what a person can or has achieved given the opportunities available to them. Essentially, a more calibrated assessment of their performance. 

Over 2 pilot fellowship rounds, more than 60 per cent of candidates utilised ARtO in the recruitment process and more than 50 per cent of these candidates were successful in securing roles. 

In 2020, RMIT was also: 

  • the first Australian employer to be explicitly inclusive of trans- and gender-diverse through Special Measures recruitment; and

  • the first university to be accredited by the Australian Network on Disability (AND) as a Disability Confident Recruiter. 

About the award

The Cygnet Award follows the Athena SWAN Bronze Accreditation awarded to RMIT in February 2020. While the Athena SWAN Bronze Award is given to institutions for establishing a solid foundation to drive transformational change, Cygnet Awards recognise the progress and impact in addressing a specific barrier to gender equity, diversity and inclusion.

In the SAGE accreditation pathway, Cygnet Awards are the primary mechanism for institutions to report on the actions they have implemented and the outcomes, impact, and learnings as a result of those actions. 

Cygnet Award applications are structured like case studies on actions to address a specific issue, for example inequitable leave policies or career development opportunities.

Read RMIT’s application for the Cygnet Award on the SAGE website.


Story by Nick Adams

29 January 2023


29 January 2023


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.