ANU Gender Institute

Clare Burton Award for Excellence in Equity and Diversity
22 November 2019

Since its establishment in 2011, the ANU Gender Institute has become a mainstay for the University's ongoing work on gender and sexuality in research, education and outreach as well as promoting innovative research and programs to help redress gendered inequalities at ANU.

Launched by former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, the Gender Institute has participated in school and college equity and gender diversity committees, public lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences, student prizes and seeding grants. Staff and students continue to remain engaged in a rich program of research that continues to inform contemporary practice across ANU and within government. It was also a major stakeholder in the University's recent application to the bronze award of the SAGE Athena Swan program, in which ANU was subsequently awarded.

In just eight years the Institute has promoted the efforts of women in science, overseen research on ANU inspiring women, conducted a major Australian Research Council-funded study of gendered excellence in the social sciences and showcased the work of women researchers especially in fields where they are still poorly represented. The Institute has helped women researchers by supporting them through grants, assisted in the discussion among staff and students of campus-wide issues around sexual assault and harassment and has worked to develop international partnerships such as those through the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU).

The core leadership group of this incredibly busy Institute has comprised of Professor Kim Rubenstein, Professor Margaret Jolly and current Convenor, Associate Professor Fiona Jenkins.

Prior to the team receiving the award, Fiona was sent a series of questions. Her responses are below.

Q: Congratulations on being nominated a finalist for the 2019 Vice-Chancellor's Annual Awards. Can you briefly tell us what this honour means to you and your team?

A: It's wonderful to receive recognition for our combined work as convenors in developing the Gender Institute from its establishment in 2011.

We are delighted to be selected as finalists for this award. Clare Burton was both a great scholar and a great advocate for gender equity. Her work has been inspirational to us all. It's very much in the spirit of her legacy that the Gender Institute works to extend and connect our gender research at ANU, together with achieving greater gender equality at ANU and beyond. 

Q: Tell us a little about the behind-the-scenes work involved in the project you worked on. What was a challenging aspect of the work? How did your team overcome this?

A: Getting the Gender Institute up and running required promoting a vision of how the campus with all its different Colleges could be drawn together to form a powerful network of scholars and advocates for gender equality. Meeting this challenge has meant we have great reach and have been a leading part of a spirit of change at ANU. The convenors of the Gender Institute have all needed, at times, to be vocal critics of some of the practices of the University and to stand up for a better vision of what we can become. It's pleasing to see the changes that have happened at ANU since we were set up, with many joining us as advocates for a better ANU, and initiatives that we have long argued for now being adopted and mainstreamed.

Q: Who would you like to recognise for helping you become a finalist for the 2019 Vice-Chancellor's Annual Awards?

A: The Gender Institute has a wonderful management committee who meet several times a year to find strategies to address challenges. This a very creative and high-powered group, drawn from many areas across the campus. Likewise, the wider membership of the Gender Institute includes so many passionate and motivated people who bring a huge range of skills and terrific energy to the events we sponsor.

Q: What makes your team unique?

A: This is a very special team to be part of because it's so strongly motivated by a passion to make ANU a more inclusive, diverse and thriving place to be. We foster scholarship in that spirit, but also are working at all sorts of levels to realise a sense of what makes ANU the kind of place we really want to belong to and give our best for. Gendered institutions by their nature make life harder for some than others. Learning to recognise that and thinking about how to make change requires deep analysis, but also inventiveness and courage. I think we combine those attributes really well on our team.  

Q: Can you tell us a little about why you are so passionate about what you do?

A: The work we do at the Gender Institute is so exciting because it's about building knowledge and building change together. Universities are knowledge producers and as such they are key influencers of so many dimensions of contemporary life. It is hugely important that we don't allow their history as male-dominated institutions to limit that knowledge. On so many fronts, we are still finding really significant and enduring barriers to achieving gender equality. We still need innovative research to analyse these problems and to find ways to address them. In fact, we still need to challenge some of the basic frameworks within which we do research, because they can be blind to gendered social structures and distort understanding. Intersectional disadvantages still limit access to the academy in profound ways that we need to overcome. Our work is about tackling that - it is essential to the University's mission and aims to build a better society.