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Leadership commitment to gender equity

Professor Geraldine Mackenzie, Vice-Chancellor

I am firmly committed to ensuring that the University continues to foster an environment that supports social justice and inclusivity.  Workplace discrimination of any kind impacts productivity and disengages staff. Championing diversity in our workforce, including for talented and creative women, provides opportunity to gain a unique and invaluable perspective that fosters innovation and strengthens our success.


For the last two years, USQ has been successful in being awarded the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation in recognition of the initiatives and practices currently in place that reflect our strong commitment to gender equality.  Through a number of strategies and policies, gender equality has been elevated as a business imperative at USQ, ensuring that it is embedded into all of our employee recruitment, retention, development and engagement initiatives. 


Gender pay equity is an issue that generates numerous conversations in organisations and in the media, highlighting the disparity between women's and men’s income, and the subtle discrimination in today’s employment market. 


Each year USQ conducts a gender pay gap analysis, including a detailed review and analysis of our remuneration arrangements for both men and women to ensure equitable arrangements across both genders and also against sector benchmarks.  Levelling the playing field and advancing gender pay equity requires a pro-active and deliberate effort and we have taken strong action to address gender pay gaps evident in our workforce.  


Through training and development opportunities designed specifically for women, USQ continues to build on its long history of established pathways to support women in achieving their career aspirations.  For a number of years now, our successful Aspire Program for Women has brought together current and future female leaders to discuss aspirations, share knowledge and build leadership potential.  


USQ is also active in supporting women in the community and in particular encouraging and inspiring the next generation of female leaders, having sponsored a series of awards for young women at the Women in Business Awards of Australia since 2015.


Improving the understanding of students, parents and educators about the impact of stereotypes and unconscious bias on the education choices of women and the longer-term impact on potential career opportunities is also critical to driving sustained change in gender equality.  Female student bursaries are a key USQ initiative in this area, and the USQ Shine program showcases the diverse capacity and ability of women who have graduated from USQ and highlights their professional and personal achievements. At the same time, the program provides a platform to raise awareness and funds for women’s causes and issues and the advancement and accessibility of education for all women and girls regardless of background, location or personal circumstances. 


I believe it is critical for leaders to sponsor and lead institutional conversations about equality.  This happens right from the highest level at USQ, with our Council consisting of 40% women and achieving its target of ensuring neither gender comprises more than 60% of its membership.  I have personally held a strong passion for gender equality throughout my career, which has seen me involved in promoting gender equity issues through my role as Co-Chair, Universities Australia Executive Women 2015/16 and I am currently Chair of the Regional Universities Network Executive Women’s Group. And as part of my assurance in closing the gender pay gap, I have joined 125 other Australian business leaders in becoming a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Pay Equity Ambassador to drive change in the workplace and throughout the community.


Finally, flexibility in the workplace is a key driver for diversity, and I want to reaffirm USQ's ongoing focus on workplace flexibility in order to progress gender equality for both men and women.


Flexible work arrangements were key to progressing in my career while my children were young and this flexibility also enabled shared parenting responsibilities with my partner which was essential. I have also been involved in caring for an elderly parent and the same considerations apply.


I believe that it is important to embed flexibility in the University’s workforce arrangements for both academic and professional employees and that employees are supported to take advantage of these arrangements. I always hold myself accountable to ensure that I maintain healthy working hours and I encourage my staff to do the same.

Workplace flexibility is business as usual to me and I will continue to promote it and support both men and women in achieving work life balance. USQ is a family friendly workplace, and has in place many policies and strategies to support flexible work arrangements.   


I am very proud of what USQ is achieving in the equity area and gender equality in particular. I am very much looking forward to being a part of this ongoing journey as we continue to embed and implement flexibility in practice at all levels of the University, in order to make us more adaptable and better able to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce. It is my observation that a commitment to supporting staff in this way is repaid in loyalty, engagement and productivity.


Barriers to women's progress often come not from conscious prejudice but from unrecognised bias and I want us to continue to be innovative and creative in how we overcome those barriers.  I believe that if we all work together on this issue, USQ can continue to be recognised as an organisation committed to achieving gender equality in the workplace and better equipped to meet the challenges ahead . 


Professor Geraldine Mackenzie