Increasing female participation in research

Joint Media Release
  • Minister for Education
  • Member for Lindsay

More women will take part in Australia’s world-leading university research.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan today announced the Australian Research Council (ARC) would take steps to address gender disparities in the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) selection rounds, assessment processes and panel memberships.

The ARC will consult with the sector regarding three key aims:

  • Fifty per cent of applications from each institution for the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme are from women by 2023.
  • Gender parity for membership of the ARC College of Experts by 2023 and the Selection Advisory Committees by 2025.
  • Reporting publicly by institution on the proportion of women included in applications for ARC funding.

"Our education system is open to every Australian and that means everyone has the opportunity to get Government backing for a research project that has economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits to the Australian community," Mr Tehan said.

"We want to increase the number of women in the research sector and increase the number of women who progress on to more senior roles.

"The Morrison Government is keeping Australians together by supporting women’s leadership and ensuring equality of opportunities in research."

The ARC will develop a discussion paper and consult with universities on this process. For more information visit the ARC website.

Mr Tehan also announced two outstanding female researchers would act as ambassadors to promote up-and-coming women in research.

Professor Belinda Medlyn at Western Sydney University has been awarded the 2019 ARC Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship and Professor Lynette Russell at Monash University has been awarded the 2019 ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship.

"Both recipients are exceptional and respected Australian Laureate Fellows who have provided excellent research training environments and exemplary mentorship, nurturing researchers in their field," Mr Tehan said.

"They will act as ambassadors, mentors and provide inspiration for future leading women researchers."

Professor Medlyn said: "I’m thrilled to have won the Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowship, and to have the opportunity to advocate for women in research. Having spent ten years working part-time, I particularly want to foster discussions around alternative career pathways for women working in the field."

Professor Russell said: "The Kathleen Fitzpatrick Fellowship will allow me to mentor early career researchers, focusing in particular on Indigenous women. My experience as a researcher who has had both parental and carer responsibilities in the past, has taught me how important it is to have both strategies and networks to ensure success. I look forward to helping to make a difference."

Member for Lindsay Melissa McIntosh said: "As someone who ran a think tank program at an academic institution that focussed on gender equality and women in leadership, it is pleasing to see more women having opportunities in our higher education sector.

"It is great that Western Sydney University’s Professor Belinda Medley has received the ARC Award. Belinda is one of only seventeen Australian Laureate Fellows in 2019 who will share in $53.8 million to lead research projects over five years and we need to foster the potential of more women in research and STEM fields," Ms McIntosh said.

The announcement comes as the Government today publishes the ARC’s Gender and the Research Workforce report, which provides an analysis of staffing data collected as part of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018 national evaluation of research quality in Australian universities.

The report found:

  • The ratio of men to women in the research workforce was 56:44 in 2018, a slight improvement on the ratio in 2015 of 57:43.
  • Women outnumbered men in just five of the 22 fields of research: Medical and Health Sciences (52%), Studies in Human Society (54%), Psychology and Cognitive Sciences (58%), Language, Communication and Culture (58%) and Education (65%).
  • The five most underrepresented fields of research were: Physical Sciences (19%), Engineering (19%), Mathematical Sciences (21%), Information and Computing Sciences (24%) and Earth Sciences (26%).

The report has been published on the ARC website.

For more information

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