Shake up the system to achieve diversity and inclusion

by | 31 Oct, 2018 | 0 comments

A speech given by Dr Willa Huston, UTS Faculty of Science, at the launch of the Leaders in their Field publication and announcement of the new UTS employment target of 40% academic women in STEMM by 2022.

Celebrating Leaders in their Field

Firstly, I want to express my congratulations and excitement that our UTS senior leadership team has committed to this target of 40% academic women in STEMM faculties. One initiative is to showcase our leaders at UTS who are women. I am thrilled to be included among this group of amazing leaders. Each person represented here is outstanding within their own research fields, but also because they are contributors to the whole community, as advocates for social justice and equity.

UTS is committed and clearly enabling all of us here to succeed, and has been supporting us in the initiatives we’ve been pursuing in the Faculty of Science, through the new Equity and Diversity committee and through the Academic Women in Science Group. These are great examples of what can be achieved at a local level with the critical support of leadership, and I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about what we’ve been working to achieve.

In the Faculty of Science we believe that to achieve the next level of change we are going to need to disrupt or ‘shake up the system’. More and more, it is clear that the systems and structures that are long established in academia are real barriers to women’s and carers’ progression. When the Equity and Diversity committee conducted internal consultations in our Faculty, our staff identified to us that a major barrier to progression of women in science is how performance is measured and rewarded, and a lack of certainty around how managers can assess merit in different circumstances.

We developed a plan to change this barrier. With the support of our Faculty executive, our interventions have included:

  • altering the performance indicators guidelines to include explicit statements that acknowledge and promote equity and diversity’s positive outcomes;
  • altering workplanning and performance review processes to guide and clarify what we mean by equity or merit relevant to opportunity; and
  • training supervisors on how to implement these new processes and considerations.

Taken together, this is a new system to measure performance that accounts for and acknowledges the direct impact of gender and broader diversity. It’s exciting to have this momentum – we hope it will have good outcomes, but the best thing is that we have the opportunity to try it, evaluate it over time, and change it if it’s not working. UTS participation in the national ATHENA SWAN pilot provides us with a way to report and share our experiences across UTS and also nationally.

We are now working to make sure what we reward and value is genuinely diverse, and this goes beyond performance measurements systems to deeply embedding diversity in our culture. This includes a fantastic initiative by our Interim Dean Bill Gladstone to have end of year awards that are only focussed on culture, inclusion, service, safety, supporting and fostering colleagues. We are looking at how we reward and acknowledge outreach and service types of roles as well.

In the UTS Faculty of Science, we are committed to acting locally to change our culture, but we want to acknowledge that local changes need to be supported by a sector-wide focus on equity, which we all know has a long way to go when we look at issues like research funding by gender.

As a sector, we need to ensure that grants, fellowships, advisory boards, and other prestigious opportunities are enabled based on more diverse performance measures. This might mean targets to achieve these goals and we hope those with opportunities to influence the sector at state and national levels will advocate for these changes. And at UTS, the 40% academic women in STEMM target, which was enabled by our participation in the Athena SWAN pilot, is a great step because it means we can see where we want to go and we can plan how to get there

Thank you to UTS for recognising and honouring all of us today. And I want to acknowledge UTS leadership for being forward thinking and genuinely committed to this journey. I am so excited to be part of the future here at UTS with this amazing group.

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