WOMEN are grossly under-represented among the ranks of senior CSIRO scientists, figures show.
While at entry level almost 50 per cent of post-doctorate graduates are female, just 12 per cent of senior specialists are women. Female research managers and consultants make up a similar proportion, while just over a quarter of the CSIRO’s general management and executive roles are held by women.
The organisation, Australia’s largest employer of scientific researchers, will today honour a pledge to publish long-term data revealing the stark gender imbalance as it grapples with the challenge of boosting the proportion of women it employs.
As part of a commitment in April at the national Women in Science forum in Canberra, some of the nation’s top research and education institutes undertook to improve gender balance.
Despite the pledges, few have yet publicly reported on gender participation.
The figures from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation reveal that it is outside the CSIRO’s scientific roles where women dominate: 85 per cent of administration staff and 55 per cent in general services are female.
CSIRO researcher Amanda Barnard was key to getting the figures published online after attending the Women in Science forum organised by Science and Technology Australia in April.
Dr Barnard said that while there had been improved participation rates in the past 15 years, the representation of women in technical areas remained low. As head of the Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory in Clayton, she is among a minority of women to lead a lab.
”Currently I have one female staff member and in 10 years it’s the first time I have ever been in a research group with another female,” she said.
Dr Barnard said although much of the information was published in annual reports, collating it centrally would bring focus to the issue and foster change.
”As more things become available we will add to it,” she said. ”This is about putting our numbers out there and admitting to it, but also challenging universities to be as transparent about it as we are.”
Science and Technology Australia executive director Anna-Maria Arabia praised the CSIRO’s willingness to publish the data. She said that while the figures were not great, they would provide an impetus for change that could be monitored and measured.
”I think this will make an enormous difference,” she said. ”While the baseline data which is today’s results might not look particularly encouraging, by next year I’m sure there will have been changes that make it a good news story.”
A survey of more than 1000 female scientists and engineers last year by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia found almost a quarter expected to have left their profession within five years. The most common reasons included pay inequity and lack of flexible working conditions.