Supporting women's academic promotion

La Trobe University today launched a Women’s Academic Promotions Support program that directly addresses gender biases that were identified in data collected as part of the University’s involvement in the Athena Swan accreditation program.

While 60 per cent of academic staff employed at La Trobe are women, data shows that there is an imbalance in favour of men when it comes to senior academic appointments across the University.

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said, “We must redress the gender disparity in senior academic appointments and promote more women into senior research and leadership roles. This program will raise awareness among academic women about promotion opportunities, and will provide encouragement and assistance for women to achieve promotion.”

Professor Dewar said that the University’s involvement in Athena Swan had helped to increase awareness about gender equity at La Trobe, and had provided solid evidence of the need for the University to actively address these issues.

“There has been a very positive reception to the initiative, indicating both the need to support women’s promotion and the commitment amongst members of the La Trobe community to drive positive change.

“We have had an incredible response to the Women’s Academic Support Program, with 150 women signing up to join the program or offer support and mentoring to their colleagues”, he said.

The University also highlighted issues impacting women’s ability to pursue senior academic roles during a special event held last week as part of the Bendigo Writers Festival. La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow Dr Elizabeth Finkel led a discussion with award-winning American author Dava Sobel, whose new book, The Glass Universe, tells the story of the women who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.

Professor Dewar introduced the event and said it was an honour to host Dava Sobel at La Trobe, and fitting to see two women on stage leading the discussion.

“Through Dava’s extraordinary story telling we are provided with great insights about the ways that structural barriers have acted to prevent women from attaining scientific leadership roles, despite their long history of working in science”, Professor Dewar said.

The Women’s Academic Support Program and the event with Dava Sobel build on work being done at La Trobe over the last few years to achieve gender equality in the University’s workplace and provide an example to the broader community of the ways in which organisations and individuals can contribute to gender equity.

As well as La Trobe’s involvement in the Athena Swan accreditation program, the University’s commitment to gender equity is underpinned by its recognition as a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality.

Professor Dewar is personally committed to these programs, and said: “All members of the University’s senior leadership team support these programs and are committed to providing all members of our community with equal opportunities. This benefits all of us and means that each of us can reach our full potential”.

Further information about these initiatives is available at the University’s Diversity and Inclusion webpage.