ECU receives Athena SWAN bronze award from Science in Australia Gender Equality

ECU strategic partnerships deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd at the Athena SWAN parenting room launch in 2016.
ECU strategic partnerships deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd at the Athena SWAN parenting room launch in 2016.

PARENTING rooms, flexible child care arrangements, parking bays for parents doing school runs and a career advancement scheme have helped ECU win an international gender equality award.

The university received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award this week, and is one of 15 organisations to receive that status.

Science in Australia Gender Equality (SAGE) manages the international accreditation program, which launched Athena SWAN in the UK in 2005 to advance the representation and progression of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

It has since been adopted in Ireland, Canada and the United States and is being piloted in Australia.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Steve Chapman welcomed the award as a significant achievement in the university’s efforts to achieve diversity and equality.

“It recognises our firm commitment to breaking down barriers to gender equality in all its forms,” he said.

ECU Vice-Chancellor Steve Chapman at the parenting room launch in 2016.

To achieve accreditation with SAGE, ECU underwent a two-year process, which involved identifying the barriers to equality and devising practices, processes and actions to address them.

Strategic partnerships deputy Vice-Chancellor Cobie Rudd has been leading the program at ECU and credits SAGE with helping to accelerate efforts at the university.

“Over the past few years we have put in place a number of strategies to address gender equality,” Professor Rudd said.

“We have introduced a range of initiatives to make ECU a truly welcoming and flexible place for those with parenting and caring responsibilities.

“We’re also fine-tuning our staff’s leadership skills to recognise and address gender bias and ensuring our promotional materials and job adverts use gender neutral language and non-stereotypical images.

“In addition, we launched the Edith Cowan Athena SWAN Advancement Scheme in 2016 which provides financial support to staff, of any gender, who face barriers to career advancement or those who are gender equality champions.”

The Scheme has already run three rounds and awarded 13 staff who have faced disadvantage as a result of parenting and caring roles.

Grants can be used to help accelerate recipients’ careers with access to professional development opportunities or to kick-start research in science.

Professor Rudd said it was “not about fixing the women”.

“We know that parental and caring responsibilities don’t just affect women so our initiatives, including parenting leave, are accessible by all genders,” she said.

“We’re actively encouraging the many male champions we have on staff to help lead the changes.”