Many high-profile events do not proactively seek equitable gender representation, resulting in panels and forums that consist largely of men. When experts of other genders are excluded from these events, they miss out on valuable opportunities to build their profile, which in turn hampers their career progression.

They’re not the only people who lose out. Without a diverse range of speakers, the thoughts, ideas and perspectives we hear are limited, and there are fewer visible role models who identify as women or non-binary.

To help address this, the Panel Pledge initiative encourages academics and professionals to commit to requesting gender equity as a condition of participation on any panel or conference.

The Merle Pledge logo

The University of Queensland have named their version The Merle Pledge in honour of UQ alumnus Merle Thornton AM.

Merle is renowned for her feminist activism. In 1965, she and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to a foot rail at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel to challenge the exclusion of serving women in pubs. A few years later, Queensland law was changed to allow women to drink freely in public bars.

Merle also founded the Equal Opportunities for Women Association and successfully campaigned for the removal of the “marriage bar”, which had banned married women from employment in the Australian public service. Check out the Merle Pledge guidelines [PDF 221 kB] if you’d like to adopt the Pledge at your institution.

Does your institution also have grants or initiatives that are named after women? We’d love to hear the stories behind these tributes.