This page belongs to: Advancing Women in STEM Strategy

Breaking down workplace barriers

In 2018, Edith Cowan University (ECU) became one of 15 institutions to be awarded a SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Award. The award recognises the institution’s progress in addressing gender inequity and supporting greater diversity and inclusion.

Photo at Edith Cowan University SAGE awards ceremony

Edith Cowan University SAGE awards ceremony. Image supplied by Edith Cowan University

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Professor Cobie Rudd has spent the last few years actively addressing the gender imbalance in STEM at ECU. ‘We cannot reach our full potential unless we can benefit from the talents of everyone. The SAGE Pilot of the Athena SWAN Charter is key to lifting our game in this space; it’s an accreditation framework which drives cultural transformation by removing outdated practices that create roadblocks for the female workforce,’ says Professor Rudd.

‘ECU undertook the two year journey for a Bronze Award and this required us to take a brutally honest look at ourselves. The end result is a hard-hitting action plan that will span four years of big changes.’

‘We really have broken down barriers and removed obstacles for women in the workplace,’ says Professor Rudd, ‘From the outset, ECU’s Vice-Chancellor and I modelled a gender balance in our communications and with other University leaders, we ran staff workshops on all campuses, which enabled meaningful and honest conversations on how things could be done better to improve gender parity at a grass-roots level.’

Professor Rudd says the outcomes of the process have transformed ECU and are already having a positive impact on staff members. One ECU staff member said ‘As someone who has returned to work this year from parental leave, I think it’s brilliant that ECU has been very inclusive, thoughtful and a leader in providing support mechanisms to encourage and make it easier for women to return to work. I really like where ECU is heading with encouraging and supporting women to pursue their careers whilst supporting them should they choose to take a career break.’

The SAGE Athena SWAN process has also has a profound personal impact on Professor Rudd. ‘It’s given me more confidence and courage. We have been brave in revealing our weaknesses and gaps, and it has served to make us stronger as a whole and so my personal pride in ECU has skyrocketed. I’ve also finally knocked the imposter syndrome on the head!’ says Professor Rudd.

‘Leaders set the tone for workplace culture and at ECU, the leadership has been at the centre of its gender equality movement. In order for there to be true equality, the expectation needs to be set where it is clear that people will be treated equally and ultimately it is the leadership that sets these standards through what they prioritise, profile and resource,’ says Professor Rudd; ‘at ECU, it is not our role simply to elevate the voices of women at our University but to also ensure they are heard across boundaries, having sector-wide impact across STEM culture.’