Towards gender diversity in STEM: Why we need special recruitment rounds

In STEM education and careers, Australia’s talent pool is limited by the underrepresentation of half of Australia’s population—women.

The causes of insufficient attraction and retention of girls and women in STEM begin from an early age and are evident throughout their school years. When considering career paths, women are  more likely to become a health professional than a scientist or engineer due to hardwired yet outdated societal expectations. Such choices are believed to resonate better with more feminine qualities such as nurturing and care. Subsequently, universities lose the diversity of ideas and research is losing out on talent pool.

The effects compound as progression to more senior careers is made. In an industry report, Towards 2030, published by UNESCO in 2015, authors refer to this phenomenon as ‘a leaky pipeline’. Women constitute 41.7% of early career STEM researchers, but senior academic roles comprise only 13.9% of women in STEM in Australia.

To address this inequality, organisations employing STEM professionals must address the dissipation of women from the STEM workforce by challenging barriers, biases and other disincentivising obstacles for women wishing to remain in STEM careers or return to them after career interruptions.

Special Recruitment Rounds at TMOS

A big part of our work towards a more balanced industry is to tackle that underrepresentation in our own backyard. One way of doing so was running women-only recruitment rounds at our nodes.

In 2020, we advertised all 15 postdoctoral positions at once, with 13 of 15 positions requesting women applicants only. We had 330 applications during this special measures round. We recruited five women, with a sixth to be given a position upon completing her DECRA in 2022. This is in addition to two women that we were able to directly appoint with Establishment Funds during 2020.

We consider this an outstanding result and a significant step towards our goal to increase the participation of women in our Center to 40% by the end of 2026. We have and will be advertising all unfilled positions in 2021, internationally and without reference to gender, welcoming persons of all genders to apply.

Over the next few months, we will be introducing you to women of our Centre across the five founding universities: RMIT University, The University of Melbourne, Australian National University and University of Technology Sydney.