Oooh! Look! A Women in Science event!

By Dr Joanne Hall (Secretary of WIMSIG)

You may have had emails, voicemail, or seen a flyer inviting you to an event for Women in Science, Leadership for Women, or something like that. As a woman in the sciences with my name on the AustMS Women in Mathematics website, I get sent many of these. Some of them I put in the newsletter, some of them I tag as junk. As gender equity in the sciences gets a bit of media attention, there are predatory organisations looking to exploit it. Below are some questions to consider before you click the register button.

  • Who is organising the conference?
    Is it being led by a group of scientists? Or is it being run by a private company? There is no problem hiring a private company to do the management side of a conference, but there really should be some discipline experts leading the conference.
  • How much does it cost?
    The registration fees for AustMS meetings are around $500, and for ANZIAM conferences they are around $800. Some engineering conferences have registration fees around $1500. If the event you are considering is significantly more expensive than your discipline conferences, you may not be getting good value for your travel funds.
  • What do you want to get out of it?
    Meeting interesting people is one of the most valuable outcomes of any event. Developing professional networks is an important career advancement tool. Is this event going to be cost effective (in both money and time) for this purpose? You are more likely to meet a research collaborator at a technical event.

    Developing skills in negotiating, public speaking and grant writing are often better done in a workshop setting. Does this event have workshop sessions? Do you need to pay extra for the workshops? Can you access a similar workshop (perhaps through your home institution)?

Some events are run for the benefit of women in science. Some events are run for financial gain. Ensure you spend your travel funds and your time in ways that hold the greatest benefit to you.

Susan Scott elected to the Australian Academy of Science

Professor Susan Scott is a mathematical physicist at ANU. She is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) which announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from an in-spiralling binary black hole system in February this year.

Since this discovery of gravitational waves, the LSC has been awarded many international prizes: http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/gravitational-wave-team-shares-in-major-physics-prizes.

Congratulations Susan!

SAGE Symposium

On Friday 24 June, the inaugural SAGE Symposium was held in Sydney. Associate Professor Lesley Ward (Chair of WIMSIG) and Dr Joanne Hall (Secretary of WIMSIG) attended the symposium along with many other scientists and policy makers. They heard from many interesting leaders in science and science administration.

  • From Professor Emma Johnston, Pro Vice-Chancellor UNSW:
    “Gender Equity is not just a women’s problem, nor are the benefits just a women’s blessing.”
  • From Elizabeth Broderick, Founder of Male Champions of Change:
    “It’s not about fixing the women; it’s about fixing the system”

There were many other great speakers, sharing data to quantify the issues, and stories of success in inspiring change. Events such as the SAGE Symposium are an important way for WIMSIG to understand our role within the broader scientific context and develop relationships with sister organisations.


Left to Right: Prof Jo Ward (Dean, Faculty of Science and Professor of Mathematics, Curtin University), A/Prof Lesley Ward (UniSA, Chair of WIMSIG), Dr Joanne Hall (QUT, Secretary of WIMSIG).

Desperate times call for desperate measures

By Professor Jacqui Ramagge
(Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Sydney)

The School of Mathematics and Statistics at The University of Melbourne has advertised three positions specifically for women and it has triggered a maelstrom of media interest. What could possibly go wrong?

Affirmative action can be problematic. What if the women appointed are shunned by their colleagues, who might argue that the women would have been less competitive if men had been allowed to apply? What if the best female applicants don’t want to apply for a job targeting women? After all, the last thing a woman in academia needs is the possibility that she was appointed for any reason other than merit.

The key here is that the School of Maths and Stats at Melbourne is going through a growth spurt. They have made appointments recently and plan to make more. But of the 21 Professors in the School, only 2 are female, and all 21 of them are worried by this statistic. They could, of course, try to attract female Professors from other universities. But there aren’t many of us. Even The University of Sydney, which now has over 28% female representation in the Professoriate at the School of Maths and Stats, has only 4 female Professors. The figures overseas are not much better. The women are overwhelmingly to be found at the lower levels. So my colleagues at Melbourne have made a collective, and brave, decision to force the issue. They will specifically seek out less senior women and ensure there are no impediments to their progression through to senior levels.

There are, of course, other ways to deal with the challenge. Professor Nalini Joshi, the driving force behind the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative, introduced recruitment practices to support gender equity in the mathematical sciences at The University of Sydney. We are in the process of filling 3 positions. So far two people have accepted our offers, one female and one male, both appointed entirely on merit. The main recommendation in the document is that the proportion of female applicants is monitored and that more applicants are sought if the proportion is not representative of the pool of available female candidates. There are outstanding female mathematical scientists out there, but sometimes they need to be encouraged to apply.

Advertising positions specifically for women is certainly one way of encouraging women to apply. I have every confidence that my colleagues in Melbourne will be providing the individual encouragement that can make such a big difference in attracting female applicants and the environment that will help them flourish once they have been appointed. I also have no doubt that they will attract a very strong set of applicants, which should put the question of merit to rest.

The decision by The University of Melbourne to advertise positions specifically for women is controversial, and therefore courageous. But, as The University of Sydney’s new strategic plan says on its cover, if we do nothing, nothing will change. Let’s support all those trying to do something and be part of the solution.

Nalini Joshi OA

Professor Nalini Joshi (The University of Sydney) has been appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia. Professor Joshi is an accomplished mathematician, educator and advocate for the mathematical sciences. Most recently you may have seen Nalini as a member of the Steering Committee of the SAGE project.


AMSI Winter School 2016 – WINE! CHEESE! MATHS!

Please join us for an evening of wine and cheese.This event is designed to highlight the contribution of women in mathematics and provide a forum for discussion of career paths.

  • Wednesday 6 July at 5-7pm
  • The University of Queensland
  • Science Learning Centre, Level 2 Priestley Building 67
  • Flyer (PDF, 304 KB)

Everyone welcome! Please register.

The Innovators’ Tea Party

This free event aims to inspire high school aged girls to consider a career in STEM by allowing them to interact with a diverse range of mentors. It is also a wonderful volunteering opportunity for any woman in STEM who is interested in giving back to the community.


University of British Columbia

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)

  • Lecturer in Mathematics (Information Security)
  • The Lecturer is responsible for carrying out teaching activities of particular relevance to the Information Security and Assurance program and for maintaining and advancing the scholarly, research and professional capabilities relevant to this area.
  • Closing Date: July 24, 2016

Georgina Sweet Awards

The Georgina Sweet Awards for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science were created by Professor Leann Tilley as part of her Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship program to promote and support female scientists who demonstrate excellence in the area of Quantitative Biomedical Science.

Two new awards were established in 2016:

  • Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science
  • Georgina Sweet Travel Support for a Female Keynote Speaker in Quantitative Biomedical Science

Closing date: July 31, 2016

The University of Melbourne

These positions are identified as part of a Special Measure of the Equal Opportunity Act.

The University of Melbourne – Professorial Positions

MPhil/PhD position at The University of Adelaide

An MPhil (or a PhD) position in Pure Mathematics is now available at The University of Adelaide. The successful applicant will receive a 3-year ARC sponsored scholarship to complete his/her Masters or PhD degree in Adelaide. Undergraduate or Masters students interested in this position are encouraged to contact Dr Hang Wang (hang.wang01@adelaide.edu.au) for more information.

Priority will be given to female applicants for this position. More details can be found at http://www.maths.adelaide.edu.au/hang.wang/styled-4/index.html.


Have you read an interesting article? Have some news? Have an opportunity available?

Please send items to the WIMSIG Secretary.

Note: Newsletters are published on the 1st day of each month (or soon after). The deadline for submitted items is the 2nd last day of each month.