In 2005, Professor Janice Aldrich-Wright had been working on the Athena Swan Charter in the UK and was impressed with the impact. Joining SAGE at Western Sydney University 10 years later as the Academic Lead was a natural fit for her. “It was an opportunity to empower us to do even more, which is what we hope we’ve done,” she says.

Western Sydney University (WSU) achieved their SAGE Athena Swan Bronze Award in 2019. But even before joining SAGE, WSU came from a place of strength in the diversity space. Their action plan complements the University’s existing policies, programs and initiatives that promote gender equity for staff and students. For the last three years, the University has maintained their position as one of the top 3 universities in the world for gender equality, according to the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. WSU has also held a WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation for 18 years.

“I’ve been at all of those stations,” Professor Aldrich-Wright says. “I’ve been a casual employee. I’ve also been in a shared position. I’ve been on contract, I’ve had small kids; I’ve tried to balance it all.”

Headshot of Janice Aldrich Wright Professor Janice Aldrich-Wright.

I wanted to be part of a movement that instigated, permeated, embedded gender equity and diversity objectives across the sector.

In 2015, WSU set a minimum target of 40% women amongst shortlisted applicants for academic STEMM positions. They introduced a new method to ensure independent assessment of gender neutrality in job descriptions, selection criteria and interview questions. The University also mandated a minimum requirement for women’s representation on selection panels and trained panel chairs in ethical recruitment practices. “That’s helped some more women into WSU,” says Professor Aldrich-Wright.

In 2020, WSU was not only meeting those targets across the board but exceeding them. “Across 2018 to 2019, 57% percent of our shortlisted candidates for Level E positions in our STEMM disciplines were female,” she says.

Now, WSU is conducting a more comprehensive gender equity impact assessment. The University is looking to identify potential impacts of recent organisational and change processes in their workforce and how these have affected the University’s gender equity and diversity profile. They are also hoping to learn more about staff perceptions of the impacts of COVID-19 on their career development.

To learn more about WSU’s SAGE Athena Swan action plan and ongoing initiatives in gender equity and diversity, listen to episode 18. You can also subscribe to Think Difference on Google PodcastsApple Podcasts and Spotify.