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Joy Damousi.jpg

I think a 40-40-20 quota, ie 40% men, 40% women, and 20% either, is something that should be applied to senior management roles, fellowship appointments, to all sorts of programs and funding for research.

Why measure gender differences?


Men and women have different needs and face different social, economic, and cultural barriers. These gender inequalities, constrains, and opportunities can be identified by collecting sex-disaggregated data through a gender analysis. Sex-disaggregated data [1] is data that is collected, analysed, and presented separately for men and women. This data helps to understand male and female roles and responsibilities, and how these change in the context of new policies, markets, and technologies.


Sex-disaggregated data:

  • A powerful tool to identify quantifiable differences on various social and economic dimensions between ♂ and ♀.

  • One of the most common approaches that scientists use to integrate gender in basic research, assessments made for policy research, and evaluative research [2][3].

  • Should be collected at each stage of policy planning and implementation to address gender issues.

  • Takes into account the unique needs of ♂ and ♀, which are often overlooked in planning and implementation.


This video further explains why sex-disaggregated data is important for quality improvement.


How has data shown gender differences in academia?


What are some of the ways that men and women differ in academic performance? Differences in aptitude are sometimes cited as a means of explaining why men perform better in STEM fields than women. Yet, the research suggests that this may not be correct.

If variations in grades by gender cannot explain men and women’s different engagement in STEM, what explanation might help us understand why women are less likely to study STEM subjects?

Even when women are well-represented in student enrolments and subject selection in STEM, this gender parity rarely lasts into middle and senior academic ranks. Past the postdoctoral stage, women gradually move from relative parity to becoming severely underrepresented at the highest levels of leadership in STEM. What are some of the factors driving this decline?

How can institutes measure gender equality?


A range of programs have been proposed to assist institutes in evidence-based measurement of gender equality. Below, we outline several of the programs currently available.


Athena Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN)

The Athena SWAN charter was established in 2005 by the British Equality Challenge Unit. It is designed to support and promote gender equality [1] and diversity by encouraging and recognizing commitment to advancing the careers of women in STEM [13]. In May 2015, the charter expanded to include Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Law (AHSSBL) majors. The charter is based on 10 key principles. Institutions that adopt the charter commit to the following principles:

  1. We acknowledge that academia cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of all.

  2. We commit to advancing gender equality in academia, in particular, addressing the loss of women across the career pipeline and the absence of women from senior academic, professional and support roles.

  3. We commit to addressing unequal gender representation across academic disciplines and professional and support functions.

  4. We commit to tackling the gender pay gap.

  5. We commit to removing the obstacles faced by women, in particular, at major points of career development and progression, including the transition from PhD into a sustainable academic career.

  6. We commit to addressing the negative consequences of using short-term contracts for the retention and progression of staff in academia, particularly women.

  7. We commit to tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people.

  8. We acknowledge that advancing gender equality demands commitment and action from all levels of the organisation and in particular active leadership from those in senior roles.

  9. We commit to making and mainstreaming sustainable structural and cultural changes to advance gender equality, recognising that initiatives and actions that support individuals alone will not sufficiently advance equality.

  10. All individuals have identities shaped by several different factors. We commit to considering the intersection of gender and other factors wherever possible.


Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE)


“Our vision is to improve gender equity in STEMM in the Australian higher education and research sector by building a sustainable and adaptable Athena SWAN model for Australia.” [14]


SAGE initiative is a joint partnership between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering [14]. It was launched in 2015 and includes 45 members from universities (e.g., Curtin University), medical research institutes (e.g., Burnet Institute for Medical Research) and publicly funded research organizations across Australia. The SAGE initiative aims to comprehensively tackle gender inequality in STEMM through the following processes:


Participative (democratic)[4]

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA)


The WGEA is an Australian Government statutory agency that was created by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 [15]. Its goal is to promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces16 through the following values:

  • Lead: Proactively drive positive gender equality outcomes

  • Innovate: Explore, embrace and create new ways to address gender equality

  • Collaborate: Engage team members and stakeholders in a respectful and inclusive manner to foster successful partnerships


The WGEA promotes a range of business tools, such as the Competitor Analysis Benchmark Reports. This tool enables companies to compare their employees’ gender performance to that of competitors through the following actions:

  1. Assess and analyze
    Companies should track progress towards gender equality over time and relative to other companies.

  2. Prioritize
    Companies should identify key areas of strength/improvement.

  3. Commit
    Companies should communicate key gender equality to senior leadership and obtain support for implementing change.

  4. Design and develop
    Companies should design and develop policies and strategies that include: gender pay equity [1], flexible working arrangements, and the setting of targets.

  5. Revise and measure
    After companies have implemented policies/strategies, they should track progress over time.


The WGEA also introduced the Gender strategy toolkit, which is a toolkit that enables organizations to diagnose performance, set goals, and build a comprehensive gender equality strategy. The toolkit can be used by both advanced gender equality organizations– and organizations that just recently started focusing on gender equality. The toolkit describes the 4-step process of change involved in workplace gender equality:

  1. Analyze
    “Where are we now? Where do we want to be (and why)?”

  2. Design
    “What is the best route to get there?”

  3. Implement
    “How can we start (or keep) moving?

  4. Review
    “How are we travelling?”


If you want to read more about WGEA, their events and workshops, or other WGEA-related news, visit their website.

Suggested links

Suggested videos and podcasts

Margaret Jolly's Podcast - Interview by Sharon Parker
Gender Equality - Organisations
See full reference list
Anchor 1
  1. UNESCO (n.d.). UNESCO’s gender mainstreaming implementation framework: Baseline definition of key concept and terms. Retrieved from

  2. Rath, N. (2015). Gender indicators and sex disaggregated data [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from

  3. The Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) & Data2X (2015). Measuring women’s financial inclusion: The value of sex-disaggregated data. Retrieved from

  4. O’Dea, R. E., Lagisz, M., Jennions, M. D., & Nakagawa, S. (2018). Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM. Nature Communications, 9, 3777. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-06292-0

  5. Tellhed, U., Bäckström, M., Björklund, F. (2017). Will I fit in and do well? The importance of social belongingness and self-efficacy for explaining gender differences in interest in STEM and HEED majors. Sex Roles, 77(1-2), 86-96. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0694-y

  6. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioural change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191.

  7. Van Bel, D. T., Smolders, K. C. H. J., IJsselsteijn, W. A., & de Kort, Y. (2009). Social connectedness: concept and measurement. In International Conference on Intelligent Environments (pp. 67-74). Amsterdam: IOS Press. doi:10.3233/978-1-60750-034-6-67

  8. Sojo, V., & Wood, R. (2012). Resilience: Women's fit, functioning and growth at work: Indicators and predictors (Technical Report). Melbourne: Centre for Ethical Leadership, Melbourne Business School. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4075.6889

  9. National Academy of Science (2006). Beyond bias and barriers: Fulfilling and potential of women in academic science and engineering. Washington, DC: National Academic Press.

  10. Pyke, J. (2014). Women, choice and promotion or why women are still a minority in the professoriate. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 35(4), 444-454. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2013.812179

  11. Ginther, D. K. (2003). Is MIT an exception/ Gender pay differences in academic science. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 23(1), 21-26. doi:10.1177/0270467602239767

  12. Holman, L., Stuart-Fox, D., & Hauser, C. E. (2018). The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented? PLoS Biology, 16(4), e2004956. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2004956

  13. Solomon, T. (2014). How to create a better future for women in science. The Guardian. Retrieved from

  14. Science in Australia Gender Equity (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

  15. Australian Government (n.d.). Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Retrieved from

  16. Australian Government (n.d.). Our role. Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Retrieved from

  17. John, T. (2018). Iceland makes equal pay the law. Time. Retrieved from

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