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Science Week: UNSW moves to strengthen women’s role in science.Read more for video.

Here’s a paradox. How does science move beyond the gender stereotypes holding women back even as it celebrates the particular qualities they bring to scientific endeavour?

As National Science Week started, it was such matters that some of Australia’s finest minds pondered at a University of NSW symposium celebrating women’s leadership in science.

 

 

scientists (from left) Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Dr Rebecca Johnson, Professor Emma Johnston and Professor Angela Moles. image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Stereotype-busting scientists (from left) Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Dr Rebecca Johnson, Professor Emma Johnston and Professor Angela Moles. Photo: Brendan Esposito

“There is a paradox,” Professor Emma Johnston said. Professor Johnston is head of the applied marine and estuarine ecology lab at UNSW and runs the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.

“On the one hand we want to let more women into the system and we know that we need to change the system for that to happen. On the other hand we want the system itself to be accepting of women who are not necessarily ‘super high caring’. We want them to be able to succeed in science as well.

“So it’s about increasing diversity. We don’t want to constrain everybody to work within the stereotypes that already exist.”

Scientists pondered the question of gender stereotypes at a symposium supporting more women achieving in science image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Scientists pondered the question of gender stereotypes at a symposium supporting more women achieving in science. Photo: Brendan Esposito

More than 200 women and men gathered on Friday at UNSW to celebrate women’s leadership in science. As well as an abundance of people who simply loved their jobs, the overwhelming theme was about supporting more women achieving in science.

A look at the figures is sobering.

More than 50 per cent of science PhDs and early career graduates are women. Yet, according to the Office of the Chief Scientist, only 17 per cent of senior science academics in Australian universities and research institutes are women.

Louise McSorley, acting head of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, told the conference that there is a 26 per cent pay gap between men and women in the sciences. And while women make up 61.4 per cent of science employment, just 27.6 per cent of key management jobs are held by women.

UNSW’s Professor Johnston said that alongside broader social pressures, “these add up to cause real bottle necks in the system. We have a very low number of women in higher levels of academia.”

Professor Angela Moles, head of the Big Ecology Lab at UNSW, said: “If you don’t have women [involved in science] then you’re really wasting a lot of amazing talent.”

The call for diversity is backed by Dr Rebecca Johnson, director of the Australian Museum Research Institute. She said: “An ecosystem is nothing without its diversity, and the same could be applied to science.”

Gender disparity in the natural and physical sciences at the higher academic levels (B to E) chart image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Gender disparity in the natural and physical sciences at the higher academic levels (B to E). Photo: Higher Education Research Data Collection 2012, Department of Education

UNSW Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla agreed. She said: “Women bring along a whole diversity of thinking – that lateral ability to bring across a whole range of ideas.”

Professor Johnston said that by including more women in science “you’re tapping into a different set of cultural values and different ways of working that can be beneficial. We know that diversity in the workplace actually increases productivity: it increases the rate at which problems get solved and science is all about solving problems.”

​So how can the current situation change?

Professor Moles said that a cultural shift in the roles of fathers “would have benefits for women, for men and for children”. “I’d like to see dads get more involved” in parenting.

She said it’s also about having role models: “It’s important that the women coming up through the ranks have good, positive role models.”

Professor Johnston agrees: “Unless you can see someone in front of you that you can identify with … you lose confidence, you lose the willingness to try. So if we don’t have women in science in leadership positions as role models, we won’t get the next generation of women through.”

And it seems there are changes afoot.

At the symposium UNSW Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs announced that his university had set itself the goal of appointing 100 female professors over the next 10 years. He also committed the university to involvement in the pilot Athena SWAN Charter program to promote women in science leadership roles.

This month the Australian Academy of Science is launching a two-year pilot involving up to 20 Australian universities, research institutes and government science organisations based on the British program, launched in 2005. The pilot will be overseen by the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative, SAGE.

The program will require participants to collect, analyse and present data on gender equity policies and practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments. Participants will also need to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.

Those involved in the pilot will work towards an Athena SWAN Award at the Institutional Bronze level, which is a mandatory requirement for future Silver and Gold awards at the institutional and departmental levels.

In Britain, medical research institutes must hold a silver Athena SWAN award in order to receive research funds.

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Henry Sapiecha

Woman runs whole London Marathon without tampon

Kiran Gandhi, a Harvard Business School Graduate and professional drummer, pictured right image www.goodgirlsgo.com

A WOMAN who ran the entire London Marathon without wearing a tampon has described how she did so to show that the “stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant”.

Kiran Gandhi, a Harvard Business School Graduate and professional drummer who has played alongside M.I.A and Thievery Corporation, wrote about the experience on her website under the headline “Sisterhood, blood and boobs at the London Marathon 2015”.

Gandhi ran the event for Breast Cancer Care and, along with “two of the most important women in my life”, collectively raised $6,000 for charity.

“The marathon for me was about family and feminism,” she said – the latter being because she “ran the whole marathon with period blood running down [her] legs”.

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Henry Sapiecha

A study of deceitful behaviour on the internet made the surprising finding that women lie almost twice as much as men in social media posts.

new york women on street shopping image www.socialselect.net

New York women are the least trustworthy on social media, though the girls from Sex and the City may be a special category.

A study of deceitful behaviour on the internet made the surprising finding that women lie almost twice as much as men in social media posts.

The reason women lie is less surprising, if you believe in gender stereotypes: women tell porkies to make other people look good. Men do it to make themselves look good.

The Works Sydney advertising agency working with Dr Suresh Sood, a brand data scientist at the UTS Business School, sought to go deeper than the widely known truth: that without the sweaty palms and facial tics to give them away, everyone lies on the internet, whether about their age, their marital status, their resume or just the all-out envy-making marvellousness of their lives…….

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Henry Sapiecha