University of Melbourne Not Favoured By Its Employees

17 June 2019

Recent data suggests that the University of Melbourne is far behind other Australian institutions when it comes to improving academic gender equity.

In February, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released a list of 141 employers of choice for the 2018-2019 period. The University of Melbourne failed to be listed amongst 19 universities and subsidiaries nationwide, with Griffith University and the University of Technology Sydney fronting the list for the past seventeen years.

The survey aligns itself with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 that aims to improve and promote equality for both men and women in the workplace. The recognition program commenced in 2014 to encourage, recognise and promote active commitment to achieving gender equality.
A university spokesperson revealed that the university’s absence from the list was due to a decision not to partake in the WGEA’s voluntary based assessment.

“The University did not participate and complete the self- assessment process or submit an application,” they said.

In addition, the university failed to achieve accreditation in 2018 for the Athena SWAN framework, a SAGE initiative dedicated to improving gender equality in academia, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Math (STEMM) disciplines. The university became a pilot institution for the program in 2016.

“Although the University was not successful in 2018, we will be re-submitting our application in July 2019,” said the spokesperson.

Sara Brocklesby, the University of Melbourne Branch Secretary for the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and a Victorian women’s representative, said that the university’s failures to achieve an Athena SWAN award and recognition by the WGEA are “the exception” and that the university has not been as proactive as other universities.

“Most Australian universities who put the work in achieve these ratings. These failures are an embarrassment and demonstrate a sustained lack of willingness to tackle entrenched gender inequity at the University of Melbourne,” she said.

Nevertheless, the university assures that they are making some progress in correcting gender disparity in academia through setting gender targets, developing guidelines and having women-specific academic promotions training. This is expected to improve the gender balance amongst its employees.

“In several faculties, a number of academic appointments have been made following recruitment processes that were available to only female applicants. These roles attracted large numbers of highly qualified women. Previously, similar roles open to men and women have attracted a lower number of female applicants” said the spokesperson.

However, it is more than simply numbers. The University of Melbourne has over 57.3% female employees and yet there are still a number of issues, which make the university an undesirable workplace for women. Female employees suffer from career inopportunity as they are forced to choose between their health, family and/or work causing them to flatline.

“Constant increases in workloads have led to terrible health issues which are not seriously or appropriately addressed by management. It is so much harder, for many women, to manage a family and work at the same time,” said Brocklesby.

Additionally, according to Brocklesby, both academic and professional women tend to not progress to senior roles and are trapped in lower or mid-level pay grades. The WGEA reported that the gender pay gap in higher education is between 10 to 13%. This is reflected in the university’s management, whereby separate loadings and bonuses are awarded to many more men than women. On top of this, due to women not progressing to senior leaderships, it has made it harder for women to receive those incentives and achieve higher pay.

According to the NTEU, tackling gender inequity means confronting the many gender discrimination issues currently tolerated at the university, including sexual harassment, the gender pay gap, and increasing diversity in staff leadership roles.

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