The equality and diversity initiatives at Edith Cowan University that are helping to drive cultural change

Edith Cowan University

In the fifth of our interviews with key speakers who are presenting at SEC 11th -12th October 2018, Professor Andrew Woodward discusses the diversity and equality initiatives at Edith Cowan University and explains how the role of men in advancing gender equality will help increase the pace for cultural transformation.

Professor Andrew Woodward is the Executive Dean of the School of Science and a member of the ECU Security Research Institute at Edith Cowan University (ECU). Starting in a research support role for IT within a School of Computer Science, Andrew completed a PhD in plant biology. This role quickly evolved into a full time academic position and Andrew was challenged with teaching an entirely different field.


Could you talk about what motivated you to take on the role of promoting gender diversity and equality in the fields of science and computing at Edith Cowan University (ECU)?


There were two main motivations for me to take on the task of promoting gender diversity, and on reflection, both are down to personal experiences. Being the father of two children, the eldest being a girl, I want her to be able to choose any career she wishes, and for there to be no barrier other than ability and desire. Unfortunately, I think there are a number of professions where there are still barriers or even just perceptions of male dominated sectors, which might put her off wanting to choose such a career pathway. The other motivation was watching my wife trying to find employment that allowed her to pick and drop off the children before and after school. Trying to find employers who allow this flexibility can be challenging, so I wanted my workplace to provide this flexibility to our staff, regardless of gender.


Could you explain more about the reasoning behind the formation of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Pilot? Is the Athena SWAN Bronze Level Institutional Award motivation enough for academic institutions to thoroughly reassess their gender equality policy and practice?


SAGE recognised that we have a gender equality problem in Australia, and looked to the UK’s Athena SWAN programme as a solution.


The Athena SWAN initiative is not lip service – it is an extremely robust framework that exposes shortcomings in achieving equality. Women, transgender and gender diverse people continually face system barriers as they progress in their studies and careers. It has been a real awakening looking at our own staff profile. Honest self-reflection and staff consultation have provided us with a snapshot of where we are today and where we need to get to.



Could you explain more about ECU’s Girls’ Programming Network, particularly in relation to the response the initiative has so far received?
The Girls’ Programming Network (GPN) at ECU was developed and run by girls, for girls. It is targeted at high school girls interested in IT, particularly those interested in learning to program or improve their software development skills. The unique offering has allowed us an opportunity to engage students with the right networks, sponsorship opportunities and mentors. The reception has been fantastic, with increased enrolment numbers and ECU students continuing to volunteer their time. More people are now needed to extend the programme further.


Are too many people viewing gender imbalance as a problem for women to solely address?


The issue we are faced with is not a ‘women’s issue’, so men are vitally important if we are to achieve gender equality – it is everyone’s business as it impacts us all equally. I think previously it was a “women’s problem”, but I have seen a significant shift in perception over the last few years, where men are advancing the gender equality movement through their leadership and board positions, stepping up beside women for both national and international social and economic reasons.

Could you talk a little about the Male Champions for Change initiative?

The role of men needs to be redefined in achieving gender equality and it is great to see the Male Champions for Change initiative growing from strength to strength across different sectors and organisations here in Australia. By utilising men in positions of power – visible public commitment and working collectively to implement high impact actions will increase the pace for cultural transformation. I don’t think the importance of gender equality has really been appreciated, and I think this is because previous attempts and schemes to address inequality, whilst well intentioned, were not well communicated or executed, which resulted in people becoming resentful and “turning off”.


You can find out more about the STEMM Equality Congress here

You can find out more about Professor Andrew Woodward  here