When: 11am-12pm, Wednesday, May 2nd
Where: Theatre LG03, Wallace Wurth
UNSW Medicine and, in particular, the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, held the 2018 Apte Scholarship Award Ceremony on May 2 and recognised the ceremony’s guest of honour, Professor Raina MacIntyre, former Head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
The $20,000 Apte Scholarship, of which Professor MacIntyre was instrumental in creating, provides support for early career academic women to focus on research projects when returning to work after parental leave went to Dr Louise Thornton, UNSW Vice-Chancellor Post-Doctoral Fellowship, NDARC. Read about her work and the award.
The ceremony will also recognise the work of Professor Raina MacIntyre, now NHMRC Principal Research Fellow for her contribution as Head of School, leadership establishing the scholarship and her broader contribution to UNSW and Medicine. Her speech is transcribed below:
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Bidjigal and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and pay my respect to elders past and present and any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people present today.
It’s a great pleasure to be here today to award the Apte scholarship to a talented woman, Dr Louise Thornton, to say that UNSW Medicine values her and wants to support and retain her so that we can benefit from the whole talent pool. I would like to congratulate Louise and wish her all the best in her career, with the juggle which all of us who are mothers face. I hope that the Apte scholarship will give her some support in resuming her career journey.
I have seen so many colleagues and friends who have struggled to find the right balance after having children. Some left the workforce altogether. Others worked part-time but found, because they were talented and capable, they were still doing a full time load, just paid less for it. Motherhood teaches us to be masters of multi-tasking and highly efficient, but often leaves us feeling inadequate at everything we do.
Why is that?
We look at the talented school leavers who enter university, and at least half of them are women. The same is true of junior academics. But somewhere between level C and D there is attrition of women. We have analysed the stats in Medicine repeatedly, and know that women who go for promotion have as good a chance as men as getting promoted, but far fewer seek promotion. Perhaps it’s that feeling of inadequacy again. Perhaps some have found the struggle with part-time work and parenting too great, and left the workforce. Perhaps others remain part-time for long periods of time. Yet others never receive the support or encouragement of their supervisors to seek promotion. In my role as HOS over the last decade I noticed that women do not have the same sense of expectation or confidence in their abilities compared to their male colleagues. They do not actively seek out opportunities or promotion the way men do. We have a lot of work to do to improve levels of women at senior levels, and the ATHENA swan program is a great start. What we need to see is financial rewards tied to these initiatives – in the UK, grant finding is contingent on meeting KPTs in gender equity. Until we see that in Australia, we may not make great strides.
I have mentioned Louise, but let’s take a moment to discuss Professor Minoti Apte. The year we established this scholarship, Minoti, who had been a member of The Women’s Employment Strategy Committee for many years, was named NSW Woman of The Year for her achievements in research and in service to the community. We on the WESC were so proud of her, and thought it was only fitting that we honour her achievements by naming the scholarship after her.
But let me move on to another aspect of diversity, which is race and ethnicity. It rarely gets talked about explicitly in the diversity agenda. We talk about gender, disability and LGBTQI, but rarely about race. It is something I myself as a non-white woman have never spoken about, partly because I feel that I as a woman of colour, a sometimes outspoken woman, am subject to a lower threshold of tolerance for my conduct. We are supposed to blend in, stay quiet and be good, especially in today’s world of intolerance and racial hatred. I will come back to that.
Let’s look at school leavers, undergraduates and junior academics again- they are racially highly diverse. The talent pool is racially highly diverse. Yet in Australia, across the board, we see attrition of non-whites with seniority in academia. Just as with gender, the lack of women and lack of racial diversity in senior academic leadership is not due to lack of talent. There is unconscious bias and self-selection that goes on, so that senior academia does not reflect the diversity in the society from which it draws talent. I think there is a wider problem, not helped by the ascent of white supremacist groups globally, and emboldenment of racist political groups and politicians who now say out loud what they would never have said in the 1980s or 90s. There is a lot of intimidation of non-whites in todays society, things which I have to deal with on a regular basis, in the shopping centre, on the roads, in society in general, which white people are largely blind to. You have to walk in my shoes to know this. This in turn pressures us to stay silent and be grateful for what we have.
In this setting then, academia has the opportunity to show true leadership in diversity. Leadership matters. UNSW has shown leadership in the diversity agenda, including appointing a Deputy Vice Chancellor in Diversity and Inclusion, and I am heartened by that. What are the next steps? While we can strive for change within UNSW, there is more that can be done in the whole sector. In the UK, change was driven by linking KPTs in diversity to financial incentives. Eligibility for grants was linked to gender and racial diversity targets. I hope we will see similar changes in Australia. UNSW’s aspirations to ascend in the university rankings cannot be achieved without harnessing the entire talent pool, whatever race, gender or sexual orientation talented people are, and regardless of disability. If we shut the gate to more than half the talent pool, we can only achieve a fraction of our potential. The Apte scholarship is an important contribution of UNSW Medicine towards diversity and retention of talented women, and it recognizes diversity by being named after an inspirational woman of colour. The commitment to diversity at UNSW and the work of Professor Louisa Jorm and the Diversity committee in Medicine is exciting, and I am hopeful of change into the future.
I have thought long and hard about the issue of attrition of ethnically diverse academics with seniority, spoken to others who recognize this problem, and instead of complaining about it, I decided to do something constructive. I am looking at starting a support and mentoring group for early career academics from ethnically diverse backgrounds, male and female. The DVC is supportive of this, and I hope it will also assist UNSW’s diversity agenda. I look forward to developing this and contributing in a positive way to the UNSW Diversity agenda.