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Launching Swinburne’s strategic plans to advance gender equality

Landmark plans to reduce gender inequity were released at Swinburne University of Technology last week, with the launch of the university’s first Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) and its revised Science Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) action plan.

Jointly launched by Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pascale Quester, SAGE lead and gender equity champion Professor Sarah Maddison, and Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent, the plans strengthen the university’s commitment to a more fair and equitable community.

The GEAP contains enterprise-wide gender equity strategies for all staff and students, while the revised SAGE action plan provides focused actions to improve gender equity for Science, Technology, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) academic staff and students.

At the launch event, Professor Quester highlighted how critical Swinburne’s gender equality initiatives are to the wellbeing of staff and students but also how they play a broader role in the community.

We know that gender equality and the freedom for all to pursue opportunities unhindered by prejudice is critically important for a successful workplace, society, economy and most importantly, for our people to thrive” – Professor Pascale Quester

The purpose of a Gender Equality Action Plan

Since March 2021, the Victorian Gender Equality Act 2020 (the Act) has been in place to improve workplace gender equality in the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils. Under the Act, Swinburne is required to take positive action towards workplace gender equality and develop a Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP).

Speaking at the launch, Dr Vincent impressed upon the audience how the transparency of mandatory baseline workplace equity data will be powerful in achieving change across the Victorian public sector.

“The transparency of having 70 million gender equality data points from public sector organizations publicly available and searchable [required by the Act] will promote healthy competition and have them work harder to manage their reputations and be employers of choice,” said Dr Vincent.

“With this data, I can see which organizations might need support with improving their systems, but I also have powers to deal with those who are non-compliant – there are implications if certain standards aren’t being met.

Gender equality is no longer a nice thing to have. It’s a must have.”

Swinburne building on strong foundations

At the event, Professor Quester highlighted the gender equity work that has been a feature of Swinburne as an institution.

“We want our inclusion and equality initiatives to make Swinburne a global prototype of a truly inclusive organisation,” she said.

“Many of the strategies included in our GEAP are informed by, and aim to complement, our current gender equity and inclusion work program.”

This inclusion work includes:

Our roadmap to cultural change embeds new organisation-wide values, including a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Our Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2020-2023 outlines our commitment to reconciliation as core to our culture.

Swinburne Women’s Academic Network (SWAN) has been highly effective in supporting the development and advancement of women, by delivering programs focused on supporting academic promotions, mentoring, leadership development, grant writing skills, and financial assistance for academics experiencing career interruption due to care responsibilities.

Safer Communities Programs, including Respect. Now. Always. providing prevention, training, education, advice, support, intervention and risk management related to negative behaviors experienced by students on campus. GEAP strategies aim to leverage this work, reinforcing our commitment to preventing and responding to sexual harassment.

Swinburne’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategy and Framework, under which the GEAP will sit, takes an intersectional approach to all diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives. In line with this work, we recognize that women, men and gender diverse staff and students may experience gender inequality in nuanced ways, compounded by discrimination and experiences of disadvantage based on age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, indigeneity, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Family Violence Prevention undertaken at Swinburne aligns with the Victorian Government’s Free from Violence Action Plan and will sit under the GEAP. Swinburne is committed to supporting all staff affected by domestic and family violence. We acknowledge domestic and family violence can occur regardless of gender, cultural background, age, sexual orientation and religious beliefs. Our support and referral services provide support for all staff.

Our Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Action Plan works to increase STEMM workforce and student community, ensuring we have a fit for the future, diverse and gender-balanced workforce and talent pipeline. Our GEAP aims to complement, enhance and expand on the successes of SAGE at Swinburne.

Future Ways of Working Strategy fosters flexibility and workplace gender equity. As we implement our GEAP in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize its ongoing effects are not gender neutral and we aim to ensure that hybrid working and flexibility accommodates diversity.

Professor Maddison said the collaborative efforts and input from so many people across Swinburne into both plans are what will drive their success.

“I’m thankful to all the groups who assisted with the extensive consultations that took place to guide the development of our GEAP. I particularly want to thank the consultants we worked with to gather insights and feedback from diverse groups, including GenderWorks Australiathe Jumbunna Institute and the Australian Network on Disability for facilitating feedback.

“I am really proud of our revised SAGE action plan and our new Gender Equality Action Plan, and it has been a privilege to work with so many passionate staff across Swinburne in developing these plans. I am confident that these two action plans will strengthen our approach to addressing our systematic and cultural barriers and bias and move us towards gender equity.” – Professor Sarah Maddison

Swinburne’s Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) 2022-2025

Swinburne’s GEAP was informed by the results of a workplace gender audit and includes strategies and initiatives to progress gender equality for all staff and students at Swinburne.

At its heart, the GEAP outlines Swinburne’s commitment to transform people-related processes and decision-making across Swinburne.

Download and read more about our Gender Equality Action Plan.

Swinburne’s Revised Science Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Action Plan 2022-2025

Swinburne was one of the first Australian universities to join the SAGE program and obtain a bronze accreditation in December 2018, followed by immediate implementation of the SAGE action plan in January 2019. The SAGE action plan contained 132 actions across 11 themes.

Download and read more about our revised Science Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Action Plan.

the future

Swinburne is building a university where all employees can have equal access to resources and opportunities and feel welcome, safe and free from sexual harassment and discrimination.

From being the first Australian university to appoint a Chief Scientist (who’s known as a champion of women in STEMM), to creating opportunities for young people in science through the Swinburne Youth Space Innovation Challenge, to becoming the first university in Victoria to offer STEMM and social action learning to children through the Children’s University, Swinburne is committed to developing its learners and educators and supporting their progression.

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