Gender equity in action

Gender equity in action

An equitable and diverse workforce drives innovation

Our Institute is aware of the challenges experienced by women in science. Although women have made up the majority of biology undergraduates for decades, progress towards parity at senior levels has been slow.

Since 2009, there has been a steady increase in the number of women in the Institute’s senior scientific positions.

The Institute has advanced progress towards gender equality in the workplace with initiatives and policies including:

  • Family friendly meeting times
  • Equal representation of women and men presenting at Institute symposia and sponsored events
  • Supporting trans and gender diverse people in the Institute
  • Workplace response to domestic and family violence
  • Parental leave

Our Institute, our sector, our community

Institute staff and students are part of a number of programs to achieve gender equity across our Institute, our sector and our community. These initiatives complement each other in several areas such as measurement and accountability, flexibility in the workplace and raising the profile of women in science.


Gender equity programs diagram


Athena SWAN 

National – Science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)

The Athena SWAN charter and accreditation aims to advance the representation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). Australia’s Athena SWAN pilot is a two-year program that has been established by the Science in Australian Gender Equity (SAGE) program, an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science.

  • National accreditation for STEMM institutions, part of an international initiative
  • Recognises institutions demonstrating a competitive edge in attracting the best scientists
  • Addresses improvement of gender equity policies and practices
  • Uses an evidence based approach to identify key gender equity issues and develop an action plan to tackle the problem areas
  • Gives specific focus to how gender intersects with minority characteristics such as cultural background and gender identity
  • Improves gender equity and bolsters women in leadership roles

Members of the Institute's Athena SWAN self-assessment team (SAT) have been collecting and analysing data and other evidence to understand gender equity across a range of indicators using mechanisms including workshops, surveys, interviews, policy review and analysis, and database interrogation.

The Institute's Gender Action Plan is based on the data and evidence collected by the SAT. The plan addresses issues and gaps with specific and measurable action, in order to drive forward progress towards gender equality in our workplace.

In December 2019, the Institute’s commitments to addressing gender inequality, supporting diversity and creating an inclusive workplace culture were recognised with a prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze Award from SAGE. The Institute was one of only 15 higher education and research institutions in Australia to receive the award at a ceremony conferred by Ms Nicolle Flint MP at Parliament House in Canberra.

Put your hand up for action

The Athena SWAN program requires institutes to accept the ten charter principles – we are taking it one step further.

We have asked our staff and students to endorse the principles and put them into action by becoming an Athena SWAN Advocate (ASA)​.

Athena Swan Advocates commit to:

  1. Promote the Athena SWAN program.
  2. Call out sexist behavior wherever it occurs.
  3. Support 50:50 gender representation, if not, why not.

Athena SWAN advocate badge on a jacket lapel

Male Champions of Change Victoria

State – all industries
  • State-based, high profile coalition across multiple industries, part of a national initiative
  • Influential male corporate, government and community leaders leading on gender equity through action and advocacy
  • Collaborations and resource development to enact high impact change
  • Five areas of change:
    • Measurement and accountability
    • Personal leadership
    • Everyday sexism
    • Flexible work
    • Prevention of violence against women

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton is our representative on the Victorian Male Champions of Change. The Institute, along with other member organisations, is producing an action plan to implement the five areas of change.


Women in Science Parkville Precinct (WiSPP)

Local – medical research
  • Local initiative involving five medical research institutes
  • Promotes an environment that enables more women in science to lead and excel
  • Challenges the status quo, aims to increase the profile of women in key roles
  • A platform for change and empowerment

Professor Seth Masters, Dr Jo Hildebrand and Dr Libby Kruse represent the Institute at WiSPP meetings. Along with regular seminars and discussion forums promoting women in science, the initiative is collating data across the five participating institutes to measure the impact of gender equity activities.

Doug Hilton in his office

Professor Doug Hilton has been named as one of 20 inaugural ‘Male Champions of Change’ by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, for his work to improve the representation of women at senior levels of medical research.

Athena SWAN award

Our commitment to addressing gender inequality, supporting diversity and creating an inclusive workplace culture have been recognised with a prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze Award from Science in Australia Gender Equity.