23 December 2016
At YWCA Canberra, we are fortunate to have built strong partnerships with organisations that support us in a range of ways. The University of Canberra (UC) has supported the She Leads College Conference since 2015 as Venue Partner. In 2017, UC will once again support the College Conference and is the Principal Partner for our brand new She Leads In-Conversation Series. We had a chat to UC about all things gender equality, and why they have chosen to support the She Leads Program.
Why is supporting women’s leadership important to the team at UC?
UC has a strong commitment to equity, diversity and social justice through our actions as stated in our Breakthrough Strategic Plan: 2013- 2017 and our Charter of Conduct and Values. It is important that we hear all voices represented at all levels of the organisation; women bring a valuable perspective to create, plan, solve problems, grow and improve collaboration, which are critical to a healthy organisation. Women’s leadership nurture this balance. At UC, we recognise our colleagues’ professional contribution regardless of gender, but we are proud of the gains we have made in closing the gender gap at all levels of the institution. Only last week, UC was recognised for the 10th year in a row as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). The 2014-2015 WGEA Gender Equality benchmark report also demonstrates that the gender composition of our workforce continues to maintain a significant advantage over its comparison group. This is something we are proud of.
What drew UC to supporting the She Leads Program?
Well, the She Leads Program is YWCA Canberra’s leadership pathway for women who are looking to explore and develop their leadership potential, equipping the next generation of women leaders with the skills they need to further their potential, and we agree wholeheartedly with this initiative. Our vision statement declares that “our behaviours, internally and as an institution, will continue to reflect the principle that as a community we should be an 11 exemplar of the way that societies around us must act if the world is to be a just place…” UC sees the She Leads Program as an important program to enable this vision.
You were our Venue Partner for our inaugural She Leads College Conference in 2015, and again in 2016 – what has been the highlight of that experience for UC?
Hosting the She Leads Conference on our campus has been a great opportunity for UC staff to interact with a diverse range of young women sharing their personal leadership experiences, whilst bringing a unique perspective to the discussion of women’s leadership. Our staff, particularly our academics, have cherished the experience of talking to and listening to young women address their views, challenges and ideas around the role women play in shaping our communities.
What is UC doing internally to support women in leadership and work towards achieving gender equality?
Building on its long-time recognition as an Employer of Choice, UC endeavours to recognise gender equity as a societal issue, and a workplace matter to be addressed. UC’s challenge is to build on our success, and we aim to do so by focusing on:
• Recruitment & retention
• Leadership development
•Achieving and maintaining relevant accreditations
• Academic promotion rates, with a focus on STEMM
• Creating an appropriate work environment
• Improving and maintaining our sector-leading flexible and family friendly conditions of employment
What are some of the benefits of working or studying at UC, specifically for women?
There are a number of benefits for women working or studying at UC, including flexible working arrangements, various forms of parental leave, and family-friendly conditions support a thriving environment for women at work. Additionally, UC does a number of outreach programs that support gender balance through focused programs in Maths and Science. More importantly, as an institution, our commitment to gender equity and our stance on the prevention of violence against women set us apart. As mentioned before, we have been named Employer of Choice for Gender Equity for 10 years in a row and we have operated as a White Ribbon Accredited Workplace for three years. UC also recognises the importance of breastfeeding for both carers and babies and provides a supportive environment for breastfeeding staff and students.
What are some things that are coming up for UC in 2017 that you’re excited about?
There are many exciting programs that the University is currently either implementing or about to implement. For example, to continue to boost the gender composition at management levels, UC’s Talent Management team has shifted its gender focus to leadership programs targeting this cohort of employees, with women’s participation targets. The two flagship programs aimed at current and aspiring professional and academic managers are the Management Essentials and Emerging Leaders courses which have a gender target of more than 50 per cent women attendees. In order to progress promotion rates for women and avoid disadvantage for our female academics who might have taken career breaks due to parental leave or caring responsibilities, UC has committed to the introduction of targeted coaching, mentoring and support for associate professors on the path to professorial appointments. And another exciting example is our participation in the pilot project of the Athena Swan Charter & the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative to help look at all policies, practices and culture in the institution, with the aim of then launching a series of special initiatives to strengthen gender balance, particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine.