7 Mar 2023

Women champions at the CCS

From Drs. Zhoujie Ding and Lenka Vodstrcil, co-chairs of the CCS Gender Equity Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) committee

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, the International Women’s Day (IWD) theme calls us to ‘Embrace Equity’ and celebrate the achievements of women. We are encouraged to engage in important conversations on Why equal opportunities aren't enough and Why equal isn't always fair. All of us start and come from different places, so true inclusion requires equitable action.

To celebrate IWD, CCS staff were invited to nominate female champions who strive towards an equitable workforce at the School. Thirty-four exceptional women were nominated across many departments and centres of the School. A full nomination list and nomination quotes can be found here.

PhD candidates Courtney McLean Alexandra Dvorscek, Alyssa Budin, and Michaela Guthridge were nominated for “being a tireless advocate for the welfare of her fellow PhD students”, “making exceptional contributions to the department and the EMCR community”, “contributing to numerous committees with exceptional passion”, and “bringing her strong background in women's rights programs (from NGOs to the UN) through to her innovative doctoral program”, respectively.

Among academic staff, Associate Professor Gemma Sharp was nominated for “dedicating her career to helping women improve their sense of body image which is core to self-identity and self-esteem, and a passionate supervisor and mentor to her predominately female team where she tries to provide them with the opportunities they need to thrive”. Dr Kelly Wyres and Dr Lenka Vodstrcil, among the sixteen women EMCR champions that were nominated, were highlighted by multiple nominators and shared similar quotes including “taking an active role in mentoring and supporting women in science and ECRs” and “being generous with her time with students and passionate about supporting the careers of younger women”.

Professional staff champions Mary Bowes from the Department of Infectious Diseases, Rebecca Reismanis from the Department of Immunology and Mahira Arooj (senior technical officer at CCS) were nominated for “helping the department run smoothly, from making new staff feel welcome to keeping everyone informed”, “being a fantastic lab manager who goes above and beyond to meet the needs of the department, ensuring OHS compliance and the smooth day to day running of the labs”, “actively supporting equity, calling out discrimination and biases when observed and experienced”, respectively.

Our nominees were asked to share their thoughts on the themes “what is the difference between 'equity' and 'equality'” and “What can we do to improve equity for women and not only their equality”. All of the female champions identified that ‘equity’ emphasises catering for the specific needs for women to overcome the historical disadvantages that they face, which is at a higher level than simply providing equal opportunities.

While we can continue to amplify the unique contributions of women in STEM, we still have a long way to go in order to break down the structures and biases that prevent all women from reaching their potential. To combat the discrimination and marginalisation of women globally, the United Nations Australia’s IWD theme ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’ goes further and calls for bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education to combat the discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally. 

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