The Women in Science and Engineering Summit held this week in Parliament House Canberra has led to a number of commitments by research organizations and businesses to improving the retention rate for women in science and engineering.


These include:


Agreement by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC to changes in how they assess research publications in the grant applications of those with interrupted careers. The ARC committed to extending the period taken into account. The NHMRC this year will consider any nominated five years of an applicant’s career rather than simply the previous five years, and it has also agreed to monitor gender issues in general.


Further commitments to action made at the Summit include:

  • The Australian Technology Network Universities have set a performance target that the number of female staff who teach science, engineering and technology subjects will be in the same proportion as women employed in STE industries (about 16 per cent);
  • IBM, an significant employer of scientists and technologists, has agreed to support CSIRO’s Science in Schools program;
  • The Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), Australia’s peak body for science and technology, has undertaken to work with scientific societies Australia-wide to conduct an audit of practices with a view to increasing the participation of women through best practice;
  • FASTS will also gather examples of existing practices, programs and policies which have been successful, and develop a toolkit for guiding the science and technology sector;
  • All research leaders agreed to take the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles back to their organisations with a view to adopting them;
  • CSIRO committed to:
  • removing barriers to the promotion of highly skilled women and to increase incentives to encourage women to return to the workforce after maternity leave;
  • Increasing the number of Payne-Scott awards—designed to bring women back to the workforce after maternity leave;
  • Reporting on gender participation within the CSIRO; and
  • Removing cultural barriers, and building greater trust and respect within the CSIRO.


The Summit was organised by UN Women Australia, the UNESCO National Commission and the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS).