Challenging the status quo: International Women’s Day 2018

8 March 2018

Leading female academics from across the University led a panel discussion for International Women's Day 2018, weighing in on a robust discussion about Changing the Culture of Gender at ANU.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian P. Schmidt hosted the event, and used it as an opportunity to announce several major new initiatives for ANU, including the expansion of parental leave entitlements, a new Academic Women's Leadership Program, and a boost to the University's Carer's Career Development Assistance Fund.

Professor Schmidt noted that while things are changing, there is still a long way for ANU to go in supporting and promoting women in academia, particularly in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) fields.

"We will never reach our goals if we don't address the ways women are being undervalued," he said.

"Everyone across the University needs to be responsible and accountable for changing the culture.

"I am determined to improve things to better support women on campus."

Speaking on the panel, Professor Margaret Jolly, ARC Laureate Fellow within the School of Culture, History and Language, and Convenor of the Gender Institute said the ANU SAGE Athena SWAN project will be a key part of the University's work towards gender equity.

"This project will be important in improving the culture at ANU, but we also need to go beyond the numbers and data as well," Professor Jolly said.

PhD candidate in the School of Philosophy and 2018 Women's Officer with PARSA, Emma Davies spoke about the 2017 Change the Course report into sexual harassment and assault on campus, saying that the findings of the report came as no surprise to her.

"For me, and for people like me, this is the status quo. However, I find myself cautiously hopeful that this moment might bring about change.

"We need both a top-down and a bottom-up action in order to make progress," she said, noting that PARSA and ANUSA have launched a Bystander Intervention campaign to encourage students and staff to speak out when they witness sexism or harassment.

Professor Jodie Bradbury from the Research School of Physics and Engineering is active in promoting women in STEMM, and said she is optimistic about the gender equity challenges that the ANU faces.

"If it's everyone's job to make this change happen − then often it's no one's job. But everyone can do just one thing to press for progress," she said.

The ANU has outlined its commitment to gender equity in the 2018 - 2021 Strategic Plan (Key initiative 3.1).

The University is working towards a Bronze institutional award as part of the SAGE Athena SWAN project, and is currently gathering and analysing data to assess the current state of gender equity across ANU. This data collection and analysis will allow the University to identify the challenges and develop an action plan to start to address the issues.

For more information about this, please see the project page.

Listen to the podcast from the International Women's Day panel discussion here:


The Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt has provided some specific responses to questions that were asked by participants during the panel discussion:

Male Panels:

ANU has too many panels which are all male, including ones that I am asked to appear on. As part of our University leadership group meeting, I asked our Deans and directors to put in place policies around the representation of women both on panels, but more broadly look at ensuring gender balance at University sponsored events.  I will personally be adding a rider to all future panel and plenary requests that explicitly states that I will not appear as a speaker or panel member at events with a gender ratio that exceeds 2:1. I encourage everyone to take such a stance to help embed this culture more broadly in the academic community.


Our current parent rooms listed on the website at I will be asking our University Access and Equity committees to make some prioritised recommendations  about where we most need additional spaces, as well as the suitability of current spaces.


The University has 5 childcare centres on campus and our goal is to be able to provide affordable childcare on campus for anyone who wants it. Affordable is a relative term, but the University reduces the cost of childcare by providing the land on which the centres are built, not using any for-profit providers, and making sure that our employees have the option to minimise the cost through salary sacrifice, where this is appropriate.  None-the-less, we recognise childcare fees are expensive, and we will do everything we can to make sure we provide the highest quality care at the lowest possible price.