Finding your voice

This week has marked the International Women’s Day and it seems timely again to reflect on some of the issues that are coming up in media.

This year I was invited to join our university table at the Gold Coast Women of the Year Awards with some of our most influential women from Griffith University.

Sitting there and listening many women sharing their journeys and also how we need to stick together has made me also to reflect the different ways we as women need to find our voice.

Yet, reading articles like this by Australia Institute about the existing difference in pay gaps between men and women in Australia reminds me that we have so much still to achieve.

 

Gender equity as a process

I am lucky that our university is recognised as one of the most progressive universities in Australia for supporting women and championing gender equity.

I have met numerous women who have come to Griffith precisely because of this reputation.

We are engaging in the Athena SWAN program that aims to increase women in STEM disciplines and are setting targets for women and their inclusion in the workforce.

This means that every year we cannot just do what we did last year; in order to be still recognised for our gender work, we actually have to do better each year and reach higher.

In many ways this is very positive as it keeps us on our toes and dispels the myth that we have ‘arrived’ finally at greater gender equity.

Reaching for gender equity is therefore a process, one that we need to keep right at the centre of our institutions and make sure that everyone can excel at the workplace.

Leadership is about focusing on diversity and inclusion, and making sure institutional processes are in place to enable everyone to excel to the best of their abilities.

Granted, there is still lots to do but being surrounded by absolutely fantastic women at our awards table this past week really made me feel much more hopeful that we are investing in our women and girls.

I have been particularly impressed by our new VC, Professor Carolyn Evans, who has only been at the university over a month but is engaging with our staff and setting a new joint vision via strategies of co-production and participation.

Setting a vision that is shared is always a challenge, especially in large institutions and organisations where there are many voices, interests and ideas.

I am absolutely thrilled that we all have a say in the process, and really look forward contributing to this new vision for our university.

 

Recognising and learning from women 

This past week the City of Gold Coast also recognised 10 women who are working hard on environmental issues, and I was grateful to be one of those.

In the short article, I was able to share this:

“I have been lucky enough to have great mentors at the university and through my scientific networks internationally, all of which are making it possible for me to progress my career. Griffith has a great track record in supporting women at the workplace and I am part of the Griffith Women in Leadership Program as well that focuses on supporting and enabling emerging leaders across the university. My advice for other women working in science is to reach out for mentors, to remember that we deserve to be where we are as much as anyone else and that our voices matter”

I do stand behind these thoughts because I have been incredibly lucky, and also persistent, in seeking out mentors who I have been able to learn from over the years.

I am also starting to reach a position where I do feel more comfortable to speak out than before, where I do think that my opinions are important and should be heard and valued.

But in many ways I still feel that I have not learned enough.

When it comes to for example salary negotiations, I don’t know what strategy delivers the best outcome and how to negotiate this effectively.

There’s endless research showing how men are more comfortable in asking for higher wages whereas most women feel just lucky to get the job.

When it comes to promotions, I seem to have a different mindset in what the university should value instead of what it currently values in its statistics and data gathering on “impact”.

For example, I do a lot of international work that often counts as “service” in our metrics such as managing a journal, being on advisory and editorial boards, and contributing to international assessments.

Apparently this is all very nice but it’s not clear in our internal metrics what the benefit is of all of these activities to the university (something that promotions require evidence of).

I spoke recently with another female academic who gave me such insightful ideas on how institutions think and evolve, and how, as a woman, you can advance within an organisation.

It reminded me again of three things:

  1. Of the necessity of understanding the rules of the game;
  2. Having other women to learn from; and
  3. Not being afraid to ask.

This is partly of the fundamental reasons why I established WonderWomen to provide such learning environment; to be able to have conversations on all of these issues but more importantly to share our experiences and insights and support each other.

 

Contributions and new beginnings

For my part, I have some pretty cool news.

I have just moved (internally) to a new institute, Cities Research Institute, and am gearing up to lead my own research theme on Adaptation Science.

This means doing a lot of thinking and brainstorming around what such a research theme will look like, and also start gathering a group of like-minded researchers at the university who are passionate about adaptation to climate change.

Such a leadership role is fundamentally important to me especially at a time when the need and necessity of climate change adaptation is being noted left, right and center.

The number of news that we see about breaking records (not in a good way) has made me realise that we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see whether we should adapt or not.

This is ultimately tied to how much we reduce emissions and reduce future climate change impacts.

But many of the impacts are already locked in, which means that we will have to adapt no matter what.

We have known this for a long time already but I think now there is an increased understanding of the urgency with which we need to star taking actions.

This means that such emerging scientific fields like adaptation are in a dire need for more robust theory but also deeper reflections on how they can (or should, or should not) connect with adaptation practice.

I don’t have much to share on this yet but in the coming weeks will return to this and how the research theme and collaborations are shaping up.

What I am grateful however is that this is a new leadership role for me, one that I am inherently passionate about and I hope that by having a greater voice as a research theme leader I can also help to shape the adaptation science agenda.

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