Women in academia need less talk and more systemic change

Women’s votes may have swayed the federal election result, but will a change in government move the culture towards one of empowering Australian women?

In his victory speech, newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Together we can make full and equal opportunity for women a national economic and social priority.” Can we? Will we?

Despite the role of the women’s movement in the 2022 election, and the prime minister advocating that the time for change is now, evidence shows there is a lack of systemic mechanisms to empower women to become leaders.

It’s clearly a problem in the academic institutions where our future leaders are made, as made clear by a recent special issue of the Journal of University Teaching and Learning PracticeWomen and leadership in higher education learning and teaching.

Women like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins have recently put the women’s movement on the national agenda. But for years we have talked about the actions needed to overcome gender disparities, with no measurable change across industries.

Indeed, Australia has slipped backwards in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index from 15th in 2006 to 50th in 2021. The WEF calculates, at the current rate of progress, it will take 135.6 years to achieve gender parity worldwide.

Academic leadership has a huge gender gap

At a time of heightened awareness of how women are treated in workplaces across Australia, we need to talk about the gender disparity in the academic leadership of universities.

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