Time for unis to deliver on gender equality


there is a raft of research available identifying the changes universities need to make, question is, will they

While the recent Jobs and Skills Summit has been much discussed in the tertiary sector there were two Immediate Actions agreed there which have received little attention so far, in neither higher education or VET. They are that “the government will:

* strengthen existing reporting standards to require employers with 500 or more employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in their workplaces

* require businesses with 100 employees or more to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.”

Women are underrepresented in leadership roles in universities, and overrepresented in lecturer level A and B roles. The fact that women are more likely to take on teaching and administrative workloads, in turn makes it harder for them to access the opportunities their male colleagues do for research and other activities which help with promotion – perpetuating a vicious cycle.

In a recent discussion with Angela Carbone and Kerryn Butler-Henderson on the recent special issue of the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice which they (and others) edited, Women and leadership in higher education learning and teaching they pointed out that “women are less cited and less likely to get grant opportunities, which has a flow on impact to their future opportunities. They are then less likely to get promotions, less likely to be invited to be on external panels, etc” and then because of those opportunities they missed initially, they are subsequently less likely to get these opportunities in future.

And that’s before you get to the impact of child rearing on women’s careers, with research published this month by the Australian Treasury showing “the arrival of children creates a large and persistent increase in the gender earnings gap. Women’s earnings are reduced by an average of 55 per cent in the first 5 years of parenthood.”

There is a raft of research available identifying the changes universities need to make to deliver gender equality. The question remains whether or not they will.

And as for the VET sector the situation is even more dire. After a flurry of research on this issue in the late 1990s and early 2000s I am not aware of any recent reports or analysis.

 Claire Field was joined by Professor Angela Carbone and Professor Kerryn Butler-Henderson on the latest episode of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast.