Home World Business How ANSTO’s chief stopped women taking lower-paid jobs

How ANSTO’s chief stopped women taking lower-paid jobs

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Something strange was going on at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Its chief executive Adi Paterson was noticing that when its female researchers and scientists were taking time off to have babies, upon their return they were taking lower-paid jobs.

Dr Adi Paterson, chief executive of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation ANSTO, has made changes ... Dr Adi Paterson, chief executive of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation ANSTO, has made changes to help women back to work. Photo: Anna Kucera

Dr Paterson, one of the leaders of the Male Champions of Change in STEM program, decided that wasn’t going to keep happening. 

“Somehow our society has created a paradigm,” he said. “It’s an unspoken societal thing that you [women] take a less intensive role [upon return].”

Minister for Employment and Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Michaelia Cash. Minister for Employment and Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Michaelia Cash. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

He said changes such as ensuring women are spoken to before, during and after they go on maternity leave about career opportunities, ensuring research projects get continued funding when a lead female researcher temporarily leaves, allowing flexible working hours and building an on-site childcare centre at the ANSTO campus, all have made a big difference.

“The important thing is for women to be taken seriously in that parenting phase, and that their re-entry is positive,” he said.

ANSTO still has work to do on gender diversity in its ranks. The MCC STEM report showed the percentage of women in “key management personnel” at the organisation in the past year dipped back to 20 per cent.

With the support of the federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Male Champions of Change in STEM wants to accelerate the representation of women in leadership positions in the sector.

"We must rethink the status quo and build inclusive environments where women and girls can thrive in STEM," said MCC ... “We must rethink the status quo and build inclusive environments where women and girls can thrive in STEM,” said MCC STEM’s Ann Sherry.  Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Its 2017 Progress Report recommends STEM (science, technology, maths and engineering) organisations rectify the startling gender imbalance the sector and address the key barriers that prevent women from progressing.

Women make up only 16 per cent of STEM qualifications. They are over-represented in clerical administrative positions and under-represented in management.

"Australian businesses will fail to reach their full potential unless we create diverse and inclusive workplaces" says ... “Australian businesses will fail to reach their full potential unless we create diverse and inclusive workplaces” says MYOB CEO Tim Reed Photo: Louie Douvis

Just 12 per cent are classified as high-income earners (over $104,000) compared to 32 per cent of men.

“I’m optimistic about addressing these issues,” Dr Paterson said.

We have to move on from the mindset that women are not up for the job

ANSTO CEO Adi Paterson

Apart from addressing unconscious biases that still exist in STEM industries he said changes needed to be aimed at ensuring there’s a pipeline of women to move into senior ranks.

“We have to move on from the mindset that women are not up for the job,” he said.

“They clearly have demonstrated through decades of science that they are.”

Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Michaelia Cash, said STEM was vital to Australia’s economy.

“Unless we harness the full potential of women, we will not reach our innovation capacity as a country,” she said.

Ann Sherry, convener of MCC STEM, predicted 75 per cent of all future jobs will require STEM literacy and skills.

“We must rethink the status quo and build inclusive environments where women and girls can thrive in STEM,” she said.

CEO of MYOB, Tim Reed, said: “Australian businesses will fail to reach their full potential unless we create diverse and inclusive workplaces.”

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