A month into the job QUT VC Margaret Sheil used her International Women’s Day address to set expectations – for her.
Professor Sheil set out her experience in increasing opportunities for women as chair of the Australian Research Council and applauded the QUT community for “years of dedication to principles of equality … years of leadership by the many champions of positive change at this institution.”
She proved the praise by pointing to employment stats, with QUT doing “reasonably well” for women in senior staff – more so on the professional than academic strength. And she acknowledged strategies in place, why they are needed and what they can do, for women – and for early career men, “who will be inducted into a distorted idea of a scientific workplace that is radically out of step with the world outside the lab.”
But, and it was a very big but; “there’s a trap in those plaudits, and in performing above the line: doing well can feel a lot like doing well enough when we all know there is more to be done,” she added
Professor Sheil did not commit to per centage improvements for women and people from other groups that are under-represented in management. But she spelt out how QUT staff can create a culture of change, by mentoring, by insisting on their presence where decisions are made. “We need to take focused direct action, even while we engage in concerted systemic reform.” And she explicitly stated she would lead the effort.
“I look forward to working with each of you … because the job is not merely to make this the most gender-equitable university in the country – which we will, mark my words – but much more than that, it is to ensure that it would not even occur to a bright young woman coming into this place that her talent and application and hard work would ever be held back by her gender or her circumstances.”
Great speech – now all she has to do is act on it.