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Higher Equity 2016 Presentations


Statistics show that women are accessing higher education in greater numbers than ever before in many countries. Yet complex gender inequalities persist, often in subtle and insidious ways. Bringing these to light helps to work towards greater equity for women across different fields, communities, and contexts. Penny will argue that universities have a key role to play, not only in illuminating complex gender inequalities, but importantly in identifying, shaping and driving strategies, frameworks and practices for greater gender equity in and beyond this sector.

Professor Penny Jane Burke | Global Innovation Chair and Director, Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education | University of Newcastle

Dedicated to developing methodological, theoretical and pedagogical frameworks that support critical understanding and practice, Penny has published extensively in the field of equity in higher education. She is editor of Teaching in Higher Education and Network co-convenor for the Society for Research into higher education. Penny has held the posts of Professor of Education at University of Roehampton, University of Sussex and Reader of Education at Institute of Education, University of London.


Australia is a melting pot of diverse groups of people from all corners of the globe; this has enriched our society. Such diversity is reflected among the student cohorts but can that be said for the staff in positions of influence in our universities? This conversation explores multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds from ‘Emerging Communities’ in decision-making and positions within academic institutions.

  Dr Mimmie Claudine Chi Watts | Course Leader, Bachelor of Health Science | Victoria University; Commissioner | Victorian Multicultural Commission

Dr Mimmie Claudine Chi Watts is a strategic thinker, is a Lecturer at Victoria University and leads the Bachelor of Health Science. Dr Chi Watts is a Commissioner for the Victorian Multicultural commission. Dr Chi Watts is the Patron for the Women Federation for World Peace in Australia and Oceania. She is a Public Health expert with expertise in migrant and refugee health, women’s health, social inclusion, chronic disease prevention and management, health promotion, strategic planning and health policy. She has participated in many International Summits including the Gender Pre-Submit on Gender by the African Union. Improving the health needs for women, providing better education for girls and disadvantaged persons and increasing opportunities amongst disadvantaged groups are key areas of interest for Mimmie and she is currently a Director on the Board of Directors for Women’s Health West and AMES Australia.


Current debate regarding modification of the Demand Driven System and also graduate employment outcomes has to date targeted fields of education in which women are concentrated: Education, Nursing, Health Sciences and Science, particularly Life Sciences. This adds a new dimension to the policy drift we have already witnessed in relation to the equity target ‘women in non-traditional disciplines’ and has the potential for profound changes to the pattern of women’s participation in higher education. Hard won equity gains could well be lost.

  Professor Sharon Bell | Honorary Professor | ANU College

Sharon has recently concluded a five-year term as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Charles Darwin University. She is a member of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Steering Committee and Chair Women in Science in Australia Expert Advisory Board. In addition to holding senior executive roles in Australian universities over the past decade, Sharon has conducted research on gender equity in the Australian academy and authored the influential report Women in Science in Australia: Maximising Productivity, Diversity and Innovation. With Prof. Lyn Yates from the University of Melbourne, she has recently concluded a major project as chief investigator on an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant funding a study of women in the scientific research workforce.


For decades, universities have assumed that as more women participate in STEMM degree programs, there will be a growing ‘pipeline’ of female STEMM research leaders and that this will ensure gender parity. However, evidence suggests that the ‘pipeline’ alone will not deliver gender parity. Targeted strategies are required to address the complex factors contributing to the loss of female researchers. The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program aims to embed career structures that retain women and build a resilient STEMM leadership base.

  Professor Caroline McMillen | Vice Chancellor and President | University of Newcastle

She holds a BA and Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University, and completed her medical training at the University of Cambridge. She has held senior appointments at Monash University, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. She has served on national and state government groups focused on: building innovation, climate change, manufacturing and the resources industry. She has an international reputation for her research on the early origins of adult health and has served on national and international research review groups.


Gender equality has for too long been viewed as a women’s issue dependant on female advocacy and framed within traditional male-dominated paradigms. Gender equality is an essential requirement for building Australia as a competitive 21st century economy with the beneficiaries being Australian business and industry and, ultimately, all Australians. A change to workplace culture is needed that views gender equality through this lens.

  Professor Jan Thomas | Vice Chancellor and President | USQ

Before taking up her current position in January 2012, Jan was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Murdoch University from 2003–10 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, from 2010. She now holds the position of Chair for the Managing Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. She is also the Chair for the Regional Universities Network. She was appointed Chairperson of the State Library Board of Queensland in 2014.


Higher education institutions are typically run by men. The increasing number of female graduates across Australia each year does not lead to relatively more women in senior academic positions because patriarchal systems maintain themselves. Common problems in male-run organisations are a lack of understanding of male/female differences and cognitive bias against women. An understanding of relevant gender issues combined with mitigation of gender bias (both unconscious and conscious) in decision-making leads to best practice in recruitment and promotion practices.

  Dr Mark Toner | Chair | Gender Equity Working Group of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and Consultant at Gender Matters

Mark is a former chief executive of Kvaerner (now Jacobs) E&C Australia. He has a background in engineering, science and IT, is a company director and a management consultant. He’s a fellow of various engineering institutions and of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has also made numerous presentations around the country on the problems women encounter in engineering and business. Mark is chair of the Gender Equity Working Group of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, which is one of the two academies running the Athena SWAN SAGE Pilot in Australia. He is a gender consultant at Gender Matters and one of his areas of specialty is cognitive bias - unconscious and conscious.


The gender balance and representation by minority groups within universities can be misleading if just looked at by the numbers employed. Just focusing on gender, female:male ratios look good until they are broken down by their distributions. Why is this? This presentation will explore factors within the behaviours and processes of recruitment and promotions that might be consciously and unconsciously impeding the equity goals.

  Professor Jennelle Kyd | Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost | Swinburne University

Professor Jennelle Kyd (B.Sc (Hons) UNSW, DipEd Syd, PhD UNcle, MASM, GAICD) is the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Swinburne University of Technology providing the academic leadership for Higher and Vocational Education programs, learning and teaching strategy, education quality and student advancement. Professor Kyd is currently chairperson of Online Education Services Pty Ltd and the National Institute of Circus Arts and is on the Boards of Swinburne University Sarawak and the Australian Institute for Policy and Science. Professor Kyd has held editorial roles on a number of international scientific journals, membership of the National Health and Medical Research Council Panels, and is an internationally recognised research scientist in the area of respiratory infectious diseases.


Student experiences, feedback and their voices are usually under-represented in the decision making and governance in Australian tertiary education institutions. A proactive and bias free workplace in which students, both domestic and international, and decision makers support gender equality through their statements and actions will instil a sense of inclusiveness and social cohesion in the student cohort. Achieving equity is important not only because Australia is globally portrayed as a “Land of the Fair Go” but genuinely it’s the need of the hour and vital for the growth of our nation.

  Saba Nabi | Immediate Past National Equity Officer | Council of International Students Australia

Saba is a PhD Scholar in the School of Biomedical Science at Charles Sturt University based at Wagga Wagga (New South Wales). She is currently RAC member at Multicultural NSW and Policy Advisor (LHAC) at Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD). She was the President of CSU International Student Club, Coordinator of CSU Mentoring Program, and part of CSU Green and Environmental committees. She was also the first international student elected representative in the University Council and Science Board. She was the recipient of the 2014 NSW International Student of the Year Award in the Higher Education Category.


The career journey of women in science and academia is often described as the “leaky pipeline”. It is unacceptable, we simply cannot afford to miss out on the talents of a whole section of our population because of their gender. So it has to be fixed. We need a gender-balanced STEM workforce to address the challenges facing Australia. So, gender equality must be a business priority for universities. It’s time to challenge the status quo and change our organisational cultures.

  Professor Steve Chapman | Vice Chancellor and President | Edith Cowan University

Professor Steve Chapman commenced his role as Vice-Chancellor and President of Edith Cowan University in April 2015. Prior to joining ECU, Professor Chapman was Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University from 2009, and Vice-Principal at the University of Edinburgh from 2006. Among his board and committee memberships while Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, Professor Chapman chaired the Funding Policy Committee of Universities Scotland, and was member of the Board of the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association.

Professor Chapman holds the degrees of Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Philosophy from Newcastle University. He received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Edinburgh in 2011.


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