|The CCS GEDI International Women's Day panellists. |
L-R above: Profs Christina Mitchell, Terry O'Brien, Jayashri Kulkarni.
L-R below: Drs Vilija Jokubaitis, Danika Hill, A/Prof Caroline Gurvich.
By Zhoujie Ding, Alexandra Dimitropoulos, and Jessica Borger*
The campaign for International Women’s Day was first observed globally in 1911. Women’s rights have certainly improved 110 years later, but are still far from being equitable in both the home and within the workplace.
The Central Clinical School's Gender Equity Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) committee’s first event of 2021, celebrating International Women’s Day, focussed on gender inequity in academic career development.
The panel discussion on “Fixing women versus Fixing the system” attracted 98 attendees across the A+ Research Alliance, from students to Early Career Researcher (ECR) and senior researchers with equitable representation of both male and female researchers, educators and professional staff.
Professor Christina Mitchell, Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, opened the event emphasizing: “We can do better, by listening to women researchers and ECRs to understand the challenges that they are facing”. Prof Mitchell helped facilitate an informative, engaging, and honest panel discussion which addressed several important questions and issues around how we, as a community of academics, need to take more progressive steps to continue to improve gender equity in research.
Initiating the panel discussion was a controversial discussion regarding the use of quotas to address gender equity, a practice shown to be highly beneficial in fields where quotas are applicable due to a disproportionately higher representation of men compared to women. Using quotas was strongly supported and advocated by Dr Vilija Jokubaitis and Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, and their opinions prompted immediate discussion among the audience, commenting “Without quotas how will women who have taken significant time off for example maternity leave/other gaps in work compete with men who haven't in terms of grants etc”. Putting the alternative view, Professor Terry O’Brien (Head of School) and Dr Caroline Gurvich, our Athena Swan committee member, identified the potential pitfalls, such as rigidity, to such a system which might be overlooked and the longer term consequences of this.
Prof Kulkarni advocated strongly for equal representation on boards and committees, as merit is often gendered when applying for promotion or tenure. This would strengthen female academics’ self-confidence and self-promotion for job promotions and grant applications, supported enthusiastically by Dr Jokubaitis and Dr Danika Hill who agreed that the unconscious bias and imposter syndrome can hinder women's success.
Interestingly, and in support of this point, was Professor Stephen Jane’s (Dean of the Sub-Faculty of Translational Medicine and Public Health) comment that “Men seek promotion three years early and women three years later than men! We have to promote self-belief which is oppressed by the system".
Dr Jokubaitis highlighted the importance of the mentoring she has received throughout her career, applauding those who recognise the potential in female researchers. She noted a good mentor should recognise the obstacles that can occur during a female academic’s career, such as maternity leave and carer’s responsibilities and create opportunities to support their mentee’s career progression. Diverse mentoring was also recognised as critical for career progression. Similarly, the importance of more male initiatives to help support female scientists was met with a resounding “Yes we should” by Prof O’Brien. He said, “It’s important for all males to make a stand and champion gender equity in order for the culture to change.”
The panel discussion from CCS GEDI International Women’s Day highlighted several issues regarding inequality in academia and provided great discussion and ideas to increase momentum in order for us, as a community at the CCS to Choose to Challenge.
L-R: Dr Zhoujie (Zoe) Ding (Department of Immunology and Pathology Research Officer), Ms Alexandra Dimitropoulos (Department of Diabetes PhD student), Dr Jessica Borger (CCS Lecturer and Course Coordinator of graduate studies)
For any further feedback, or ideas on how to address the points raised in this article or in the panel discussion, please contact the CCS GEDI committee.
More information and a link to a video of the event can be found at: https://sites.google.com/a/monash.edu/ccsintranet/gedi-committee (Monash authcate access only).