As part of a structural change program which took place throughout 2021, the University of Newcastle launched an institution-wide recruitment drive. In alignment with the University’s commitment to gender equity, diversity and inclusion, it took the opportunity to redress the underrepresentation of women and Indigenous staff in key areas through targeted employment strategies.

Drawing on data supporting the University’s Athena Swan Bronze Award, 25 positions were identified as: ‘Indigenous Targeted’, ‘Female Targeted’, Female ‘Encouraged to Apply’, ‘Indigenous and/or Female Targeted’, and ‘Female only’. Formal targeted recruitment of female applicants was possible due to the University’s exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales, which had only been used once before to fill a Women-in-STEM chair.

Building on success

In 2015, the University appointed a female Head of School of Architecture and Built Environment, Professor Sue Anne Ware, who was determined to improve the representation of women in what had been historically male-dominated disciplines, inclusive of architecture, construction and disaster management.

Thanks to a suite of recruitment principles that included crafting gender-inclusive position descriptions and advertisements for roles, scrupulous construction of gender-balanced panels, and the deliberate development of ‘safe’ interview experiences, female representation in the School has increased from 24% to 43%.

Aware of the success of this approach to recruitment that was determined to ‘move the dial’ for women, the University developed a formalised targeted recruitment strategy as part of its Enabling Change program. It was hoped that the same approach would achieve similar positive results for the School of Engineering and the School of Information and Physical Sciences and lift the overall representation of women in STEM.

A group of people (mostly women) in a yard, wearing neon pink vests and holding power tools or gardening equipment.
The School of Architecture and Built Environment hosts Out(fit), an award-winning initiative to improve equity, diversity and inclusion outcomes for women in the built environment. Formed in 2015, Out(fit) aims to create a pipeline for women in architecture and construction. Photograph: Supplied.

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