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Athena Swan Health Sciences Committee – update

The Athena SWAN Health Sciences (ASHS) team is working hard on issues related to equity and diversity within the faculty and University. Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Lorna Rosenwax and Project Manager (SAGE) Vicki Ward, Ethics, Equity and Social Justice, update us on the team’s work this year.


The Athena SWAN Health Sciences (ASHS) team is addressing gender equity at Curtin.
The Athena SWAN Health Sciences (ASHS) team is addressing gender equity at Curtin.

Who are the ASHS team, and what are they up to?

The ASHS team is a group of twenty dedicated and committed faculty academic staff, professional staff and students led by Professor Lorna Rosenwax, who are playing an important role in helping Curtin achieve the Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award in 2018. The award, emanating from the UK, speaks to the importance of equity and diversity work, and its growing prominence on the leadership agenda of universities, research institutes and businesses worldwide.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry sponsors this important Curtin Strategic Project, which aims to encourage the participation of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM). Additionally, Curtin seeks to promote the advancement of gender equity across Curtin by identifying and addressing barriers to gender equity, improve the unequal gender representation across academic disciplines, remove obstacles, faced by women in particular, at major points of career development and progression, and facilitate activities to empower, support and strengthen women and gender minorities at all levels.

Since its formation, the ASHS team (no relation to cricket) has worked hard to champion Athena SWAN to their colleagues in the faculty, and has demonstrated passion and dedication in the collection, review and analysis of data and policies to help inform the Athena SWAN application process.

This keen, focused and dedicated team has continued to meet throughout the year and has held several informal discussions within their work areas and schools to hear from staff about the challenges, and solutions, which have arisen from gender inequities.

The ASHS team have looked at successful SWAN Bronze Award applications from UK universities, shared presentations to understand gender equity issues in STEMM, reviewed a number of change models, linked into webinars and attended workshops provided by SAGE.

Adjunct Professor Dr Janice Bell, Curtin Medical School, presenting on the project.
Adjunct Professor Dr Janice Bell, Curtin Medical School, presenting on the project.

Achievements in 2016

The Athena SWAN process has stimulated the ASHS team to look at gender equity through the lens of our discipline, and this has promoted a number of valuable initiatives.

Professor Michael Berndt and Professor Lorna Rosenwax worked with and coached a number of female staff to encourage them to apply for academic promotion in the early part of 2016, with pleasing success.

We recommended to the Provost Professor John Cordery to include ‘Unconscious Bias’ training for the Heads of Schools meetings.

Dr Catriona McCabe-Davis presented ‘Gender Identity’, an introduction to transgender issues and current research in gender diversity, and discussed the Trans Research Interest Group that she and Dr Sam Winter run at Curtin.

Many ASHS members attended the Global Issues – Local Action: Athena SWAN Launch held at Bankwest Lecture Theatre on 5 August 2016.

Professor Lorna Rosenwax recently visited the Equity Challenge Unit, which works to further support the advancement of equality and diversity in universities and colleges in London. The faculty also has staff participating in the Curtin Trajectory: A Career and Leadership Development Program for Women, which commenced in late 2016 and will continue into 2017.

What’s next?

The ASHS team will continue to meet in 2017 to identify the main gender equity issues that surface for staff in the faculty and, where possible, address gender equity issue in the faculty/University – be it policy, practice or other – and assist in the write up of the Bronze Award Application.

Written by Professor Lorna Rosenwax, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Vicki Ward, Project Manager (SAGE) Ethics, Equity and Social Justice.