Western leads sector-wide commitment to gender equity post COVID-19

The COVID-19 global pandemic has created many challenges for the tertiary education sector. In the face of these challenges, Western Sydney University has spearheaded an initiative to ensure that significant advancements in gender equity are not lost amid the crisis.

Western has led a group of senior equity practitioners from across Australia’s universities to develop a joint sector position statement acknowledging the gendered effects of COVID-19 and committing to preserving gender equity as a priority across the sector.

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO, said women already face significant gender equity challenges across the sector, and universities should not lose sight of their ongoing commitment to gender equity as a result of the pandemic.

“The joint statement is a significant commitment from the Australian higher education sector to demonstrate leadership in this time of crisis, ensuring they consider the impact on women when planning and implementing their short, medium and long-term responses to COVID-19,” said Professor Glover.

“Over many years, Western Sydney University has been proud to be a sector-leader when it comes to addressing inequities that women face. These include tackling the gender pay gap; the under-representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM); and supporting women in leadership.

“We are proud to lead the development of this joint sector position statement – it is an opportunity for Western Sydney University to continue to build on our longstanding commitment to advancing gender equality and supporting fairer and more equitable higher education and community.”

All Australian universities and higher education sector partners have been invited to sign the statement, committing to five actions:

  1. To actively seek equal representation of women in COVID-19 response planning and decision-making.
  2. To formally monitor and report on gender equity impacts of COVID-19 related decision making, and collaborate with other universities and sector partners to address emerging issues.
  3. To continue participation in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Athena SWAN initiative.
  4. To maintain gender equity and diversity programs and key performance indicators.
  5. To preserve the gender equity progress made to date.

Western has already signed the statement, which has been endorsed by key sector partners including Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE), Male Champions of Change Australia, Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA), the Academy of Science and the Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Western Sydney University’s longstanding commitment to addressing gender equity includes:

  • Ranking 3rd in the world overall in the 2020 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, and 2nd worldwide for Gender Equality;
  • Receiving the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award for its commitment to advancing gender equity in STEMM; and
  • Being named an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) for the 15th consecutive year.

The Joint Sector Position Statement was prepared by Higher Education Senior Equity Practitioners Advisory Group on Gender and COVID-19. The group comprises Western Sydney University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Macquarie University, Murdoch University, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney.


18 June 2020

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer