Towards Gender Equity: Our journey so far, and the road ahead


Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) and Nicole Gower, Director of Human Resources, are joint Executive sponsors of the Workplace Gender Equity Strategy and Co-Chairs of the Gender Equity Strategy Committee. Here they reflect on the impact and importance of the Strategy as it moves into its third year.

In March 2017, Macquarie University launched its first gender equity strategy: Towards Gender Equity, setting out a bold vision for a culture of workplace equality and inclusion. The strategy was designed to build on Macquarie University’s proud history of progress on gender equity. We stated our strong ambition to once again lead the way for other universities, other organisations and the community more broadly in creating greater equality at work.

At the time of the strategy launch, we acknowledged that there remained significant challenges and inequalities for women at Macquarie. While we performed better than our university peers in some areas, we continued to see an under-representation of women in our academic workforce, loss of women along the career pipeline (with variability among faculties and portfolios), gender imbalance in our senior academic and other leadership roles and a gender pay gap. We knew that we needed to do things differently to create the step-change we want.

At the heart of our Towards Gender Equity Strategy is a ‘fixing the system’ approach to tackle the underlying systemic and cultural drivers of inequality inherent in the University’s structures, policies, processes and culture. The strategy set us on a path of transformational change to build equality and inclusion into the fabric of our institution. Our initial two-year action plan was designed to kick-start that change and put in place a strong foundation for real and sustained progress into the future.

In taking this approach, we knew it wouldn’t be a smooth road, and that it would take time to see results. ‘Fixing the system’ means changing the way we do things. Shifting away from one-off, short-term programs supporting women, and instead putting our collective efforts towards re-shaping our workplace for inclusion. We also needed to go beyond a singular focus on one identity (i.e. gender) to acknowledge and address the way in which inequality is compounded by interrelated attributes such as age, cultural background, sexual orientation and ability.

‘Fixing the system’ means being guided by evidence to design innovative and tailored actions, with ongoing monitoring to assess their impact. It means going against gender stereotypes, biases and cultural norms. While the journey hasn’t been without challenges, there has been significant progress in a short period of time, and we are encouraged by the momentum and level of community engagement and action.

Integral to our progress has been the outstanding level of support and collaboration on this strategy across all levels of the University. Over the past two years we have embedded a distributed leadership model, with shared Executive responsibility and accountability for gender equity.

Our Gender Equity Strategy Committee reports to the Vice-Chancellor and is supported by the Gender Equity Self-Assessment Team, a representative group of academic and professional staff that leads University-wide implementation of the Workplace Gender Equity Strategy and has been the driving force for change initiatives. Some faculties have also developed their own gender equity plans and formed diversity and inclusion committees to lead change at the local level.

We know that we have much more work to do to achieve our vision for gender equity. We are proud of what we have achieved in these initial two years and confident that we are now well equipped for the next stage of our journey, Towards Gender Equity 2.0. With this plan, we re-affirm our commitment to creating sustainable change for equality at Macquarie for the benefit of every member of our staff. In doing so, we aspire to create role model for our students and for the wider community, to help shape a future where all genders have equal opportunity to flourish in every area of endeavour.

The draft Strategy is available on the Gender Equity webpage, which also outlines specific progress against the strategy goals. We welcome staff feedback via email to





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