Gender equality and innovation

May 24, 2016

It’s time to do things differently in Australia and be bolder in our commitment to diversity, says CEO of the BioMelbourne Network Dr Krystal Evans.

gender equality and innovation

Australia needs to be more innovative in our approach to gender equity. It’s time to do things differently and be bolder in our commitment to diversity.

During my training as a medical researcher, women represented more than 50% of my undergraduate class and almost 75% of my PhD peer group. But the pipeline approach has failed; putting 50% of women into the science system at a junior level has not seen 50% of women in senior leadership pop out the other end. And it’s been this way for more than 20 years.

In 2016 men continue to hold the majority of Australia’s top leadership positions in science, research, innovation and business. The next generation will always be different, but we cannot place the burden of gender equity on those who follow us. We need to lead from the top and from the front, creating a pull-through effect that draws women through the pipeline and enables them to lead.

Insist on inclusiveness

Equity is everyone’s issue, and we need to insist on inclusiveness. Speak up about all male conference panels, research grant teams, boards and committees – especially if you’re involved in them. Call it when you see it, and provide a pathway to change; reach out with the names of women who could participate and promote conscious consideration of diversity.


“Innovation is a people-driven process that thrives on diverse thinking and views. To build a strong, resilient and successful innovation ecosystem, Australia needs to harness the talents of both men and women.”


If it matters, measure it

Everyone is accountable for equity. Scientists and managers alike know you need to measure what matters in order to understand it. Organisations should collect data and report on all aspects of gender equity in the workplace, and be open and transparent in sharing that information.

Look out as well as in

A lack of women in leadership is not unique to the science and research sector. We need to investigate and consider programs and policies that have had impact in other industries. There is no silver bullet solution or single way to address all of the challenges around diversity. We need to do all that we can to support women at all career stages, and at all places along the pipeline.

Innovation is a people-driven process that thrives on diverse thinking and views. To build a strong, resilient and successful innovation ecosystem, Australia needs to harness the talents of both men and women. Diverse teams make better decisions, and to innovate during times of transformation, Australia will need all hands on deck – an inclusive ecosystem that values and promotes women.

Dr Krystal Evans

Chief Executive Officer of the BioMelbourne Network

Learn more: Click here to see a timeline of gender equality in Australian education and the workplace put together by Open Colleges

Read next: Professor Peter Klinken, Chief Scientist of Western Australia on innovation in Western Australia.

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