La Trobe University has received its first SAGE Cygnet Award, for improving women’s rates of application and success when seeking academic promotion at the University.

La Trobe is the 8th Australian university to receive the award.

Dr Janin Bredehoeft, SAGE CEO said, “La Trobe University recognised that their promotions process was holding people back – especially women – and they’ve tackled this head-on.”

“Since 2017 they’ve made significant institution-wide changes that have seen their promotion application rates increase past the Australian university average, with particular impacts for the success rate of women.

“A huge congratulations to the everyone on the team that did this great work,” said Dr Bredehoeft.

Implementing Academic Promotion Peer Support

La Trobe’s Academic Promotion Peer Support (APPS) program has focused on improving application rates and addressing gender imbalance in the levels of academic staff. The APPS program has also supported women and LGBTIQA+ staff through the complementary Pride in Promotions program.

Since the establishment of the program, academic promotion application rates for women have improved from 4.1 per cent in 2018 to 9.5 per cent in 2021, surpassing the average national academic promotion application rate of 8.9 per cent. Additionally, APPS participants are 7 per cent more likely to be successful in their academic promotion applications.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said La Trobe is committed to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion across the University.

“It is fantastic that the effectiveness of our Academic Promotion Peer Support program has been recognised through a nationally accredited SAGE Cygnet Award,” Professor Dewar said.

Experiences from academic program participants

To reduce barriers to academic promotion, La Trobe integrated the APPS Program into its staff development offerings.

Academic staff are recruited as Program Leads to lead the program and are provided with up to 40 hours of service allocation in their academic workload plan in recognition of running the program.

“As a migrant academic, I face multiple barriers and the program has assisted me in successfully gaining my promotion,” said Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh. “Now, as the Program Lead, I am able to give back to other migrant academics.”

Mentors are also recruited and are provided with 20 hours’ service allocation. The APPS program is a mix of peer mentoring, panel discussions and a promotions learning management system containing guidance on applying for promotion.

Assessing Performance Relative to Opportunity Guidelines for Promotions Decision Makers were also developed. These guidelines explain how principles for assessing achievements relative to opportunity should be applied when assessing promotion applications.

“It has been deeply rewarding to be involved in this valuable promotion support program, which develops practical approaches to removing hurdles and provides a safe environment in which to share experiences and insights,” said Associate Professor Dr Catherine Padmore, one of the APPS Program Leads.

Continued efforts to advance gender equity

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said achieving this Cygnet Award reaffirms La Trobe’s commitment to advancing gender equity in academic promotion.

“This recognition propels our ongoing efforts toward an inclusive academic landscape, to advance towards representation of all genders across every academic discipline and level,” Professor Dodds said.

About the Award

This Cygnet Award builds on La Trobe’s existing Athena Swan Bronze accreditation, which the University achieved in 2019. It provides a structure to reflect on how well La Trobe’s Bronze Action Plan has worked and how the University is addressing key barriers to attraction, retention, and progress faced by women and gender diverse staff at La Trobe.

SAGE Cygnet Awards are earned by organisations demonstrating progress and impact in removing or reducing barriers to gender equality.

Once an organisation has successfully achieved five SAGE Cygnet Awards, they are eligible to apply for an Athena Swan Silver Award – an award that recognises and rewards progressing organisational maturity in gender equity, diversity and inclusion.

La Trobe intends to apply for four additional SAGE Cygnet Awards in the remaining key priority areas of recruitment, support for staff with caring responsibilities, women in STEM and LGBTIQA+ inclusion.