Improving gender equity and diversity in STEMM

Murdoch University has a long-standing commitment to the values of equity and social justice, shown through our academic and professional activities. Athena SWAN is one of several vehicles we use to influence positive change in line with these values. After signing up to the SAGE Athena SWAN pilot project in November 2017, a self-assessment process was undertaken, focusing on gender equity and diversity within STEMM fields. Murdoch University is pleased to have successfully met all assessment criteria required to achieve Bronze Athena SWAN accreditation, with implementation of the four-year Action Plan commencing in January 2020.

What is Athena SWAN?

Athena SWAN is an internationally recognised program, which aims to improve gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) in the Australian higher education and research sector. The Athena SWAN (Scientific Women's Academic Network) charter originated in the UK in 2005, under the Equality Challenge Unit and is being driven in Australia by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, under the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative.

What does Bronze accreditation mean?

Successful Bronze accreditation means that Murdoch has demonstrated that we:

  • Understand the current state of gender equity in our STEMM disciplines
  • Understand the structure, systems, and culture which contribute to gender inequity in our STEMM disciplines
  • Have a four-year action plan to address gender inequity in our STEMM disciplines

During the self-assessment process, qualitative and quantitative data was collected and critically analysed to identify and understand disparity.

The application was peer-reviewed using five components:

  1. Leadership and commitment
  2. Data and analysis
  3. Honesty and self-reflection
  4. Communication and engagement
  5. SMART Action Plan

Although the focus of Athena SWAN is on STEMM disciplines, Murdoch University takes a holistic approach to strive for equity, diversity and inclusion across the broader workforce, including non-STEMM disciplines and professional services.

Murdoch’s involvement in the Athena SWAN program will address the unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions. The successful Bronze accreditation identifies our long-standing commitment to remove the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.

Athena SWAN is paving the way for more awareness about gender equity and inclusion, driving long term economic and innovation benefits that come from having a diverse workforce.

A comprehensive four-year action plan is required for accreditation, to demonstrate Murdoch’s commitment to addressing known disparity or inequity throughout the institution. This dynamic plan will reflect existing and new initiatives, including:

  • A more family friendly workplace with plans for parenting rooms, occasional childcare facilities and flexible work arrangements
  • Professional development through mentoring and leadership opportunities for women
  • Enhanced workplace respect initiatives such as bystander intervention training and development of an Equity Contact Network
  • Financial support for events that promote equity and diversity, such as International Women’s Day, Pride Parade WA, conference attendance and other ‘Women in STEMM’ initiatives.
  • Research funding and incentives to support more equitable career progress and gender diverse research teams.

Murdoch plans to continue implementing initiatives that support a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Murdoch is committed to promoting a workplace that helps women feel supported, included and welcome. Securing Athena SWAN Bronze accreditation encourages a more inclusive culture and attitude at Murdoch, resulting in equitable practices and a more diverse workforce.

Diverse teams are known to be more innovative, creative and productive.

Following the initial self-assessment process in 2017, analysis indicated a lack of diversity, equity and inclusive practices in various pockets of the university, with disparity more pronounced in STEMM, than non-STEMM fields. Academic pathways for many women stall and fail to progress around lecturer level (Level B), often due to career breaks or returning to work part-time to sustain caring responsibilities. This situation is not unique to Murdoch, and reflects the broader higher education and research sector in Australia and the world.

The accreditation process

The Athena SWAN Bronze accreditation process requires an extensive investigation about how well we understand and respond to gender equity and diversity issues. A Self-Assessment Team (SAT), consisting of academic and professional staff from diverse disciplines and business areas, reports to the University’s Equity & Diversity Committee. The SAT oversees the application process, promoting University-wide cooperation, consultation and collaboration to ensure a thorough, accurate and honest reflection.

This application demonstrates our commitment to thoroughly exploring, understanding, and addressing the issues that impact gender equity and diversity in the workplace.

Murdoch Athena SWAN contacts

Kelly Parsons
Equity and Diversity Projects Officer

For general enquiries, please contact