ANU: Women-only recruitment drive to rocket up gender equality

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The largest women-only recruitment drive in the history of Australian Astronomy and Space is underway at The Australian National University (ANU).

The Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) is recruiting 10 new positions for people who identify as women to support the next generation of telescopes, small-scale space crafts and instruments for space missions. This includes the design and construction of large instruments like the 25-metre Giant Magellan Telescope.

In Australia, Women make up only 28 per cent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math. But in Adaptive Optics – a field crucial to astronomical instruments and telescopes – the female participation rate is 15 per cent.

There are currently eight women on staff at the AITC, out of a staff of 47. The 10 new positions – if successfully recruited – would lift the ratio of women working at the centre from 17 per cent to just about a third of staff.

Professor Céline d’Orgeville, Deputy Director of the AITC, said that Astronomy and Space as a field is particularly male dominated.

“Business-as-usual doesn’t shift the dial on women’s representation in our field, and it’s way too low,” Professor d’Orgeville said.

“Different perspectives, ethnic background, cultural origins, physical and mental abilities and gender diversity in the broader sense of the term would help us be more creative and successful in a different way.”

Professor d’Orgeville said she first raised the issue of gender diversity in her field at a conference in 2014 but received push-back from her male peers.

“On the conference organising committee, there was only one other woman. But as soon as she backed me up, I didn’t feel alone. Now diversity and inclusion is an ongoing feature of that conference,” she said.

“If we make this issue more visible and if we’re more ambitious and bold, it tells other people: “You can do this.” It’s all about positive leadership.”

“If I can add 10 more positions, we will have a team that’s one-third women – and when minorities reach that level of representation, they start having a voice and the culture changes.”

The current recruitment round ends 18 September this year. Additional monthly application deadlines will follow until all positions are filled.

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