NHMRC requires Administering Institutions to have policies in place to support gender equality in health and medical research. 

NHMRC’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021 aims to achieve a gender-equal health and medical research workforce by supporting an increase in the retention and progression of women. Its vision is that all researchers have equal opportunity to participate in NHMRC funding schemes and are supported to reach their full potential. Strategies are required to achieve these goals. Accordingly, NHMRC requires the policies of Administering Institutions to include the following elements:

  1. An institutional strategy that addresses the underrepresentation of women in senior positions in relevant strategic/corporate/diversity plans. This strategy should be reviewed frequently to ensure that it is effective and relevant. 
  2. Strategies for leadership development for women, including sponsorship, mentoring and training. 
  3. The provision of employer-funded primary carers leave for parents, as well as transitional support to encourage return to work.
  4. Flexible working arrangements that cater for individuals with caring responsibilities. 
  5. Remuneration equity for equal or comparable responsibilities.
  6. Employment strategies that encourage the recruitment, retention and progression of women in health and medical research.
  7. Strategies to address the need for the provision of support for childcare.
  8. Policies, procedures and training in place to support research environments that are free from bias, discrimination and sexual or other harassment and procedures in place to fairly address any instances of such behaviour.

A PDF version of these requirements is available at the ‘download’ button at the bottom of this page.

Background

Requirements for Administering Institutions to address the underrepresentation of women at senior levels in health and medical research in Australia were first introduced by NHMRC in 2015. These requirements are now listed above, and are referenced in the NHMRC Administering Institution Status Application Form.

The wording of the requirements has been updated, to use contemporary language and to reflect NHMRC’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018–2021. In line with this strategy, an additional requirement for Administering Institutions to support research environments that are free from bias, discrimination and sexual or other harassment has been added.

NHMRC’s reviews of Administering Institutions’ gender equity policies

Administering Institutions have participated in two reviews of how they are meeting the requirements. The first of these took place in 2015–16 and data for a more recent review was collected in late 2018 and early 2019. Information about the earlier review is available at the ‘downloads’ section below. 

2018–19 review

In late 2018, we asked Administering Institutions to self-report on whether they were continuing to meet the seven gender equity policy requirements that were in place at that time. To streamline this review, we referred to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) annual reporting process. We also took into account AIs’ other gender equality achievements, where relevant, including recognition as a WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation holder, membership of Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) and applications for the SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award. 

We assessed 88% of Administering Institutions as meeting all seven requirements and 12% as meeting six of the seven requirements. An assessment of ‘met’ was given if the Administering Institution had either fully adopted or partly adopted/was working towards the requirement. Our assessment also took into account that the institutions varied greatly in size and capacity to fully implement some requirements and that different approaches are used to ensure the progression and retention of women in health and medical research. 

While data from the earlier review and the later review are not fully comparable, the current results suggest an improvement in the number of requirements met (see Table 1).

Table 1: Comparison between the 2015–16 and 2018–19 reviews of Administering Institution (AI) gender equality policies

Result Category Number of requirements met  AIs in this category for the 2015-16 review (n=82) AIs in this category for the 2018-19 review (n=76) 
Poor                                               0-1 0 0
Needs development 2-3 0 0
Fair 4 14 (17%) 0
Good 5 0
Very good 6 68 (83%) 9 (12%)
Excellent 7 67 (88%) 

Note: The total number of AIs listed for the 2015–16 review (n=82) is not the same total number of AIs listed for the 2018–19 review (n=76) This is due to changes in active Administering Institutions and missing data for a small number of institutions. Percentages included for the 2018–19 review are calculated based on the 76 AIs for which data is available.

A number of Administering Institutions report to WGEA, are WGEA EOCGE citation holders, are SAGE members and/or hold SAGE Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Awards. Non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees in their corporate structure are required to report to WGEA on an annual basis, and the number of Administering Institutions that report to WGEA and/or are current WGEA EOCGE citation holders reflect this requirement. Further information can be found on the WGEA and SAGE websites.

The seven requirements that were assessed in this review (now replaced by the updated requirements above) were: 

  1. An institutional strategy that addresses the underrepresentation of women in senior positons in relevant strategic/corporate plans. This strategy should be reviewed frequently to ensure that it is effective and relevant.
  2. Mentoring and skills training strategies that promote and seek to increase women’s participation.
  3. The provision of parental/maternity leave and carers leave, and transitional support to encourage return to work.
  4. Working arrangements that cater for individuals with caring responsibilities.
  5. Remuneration equity between men and women with the same responsibilities.
  6. Employment strategies that encourage the recruitment, retention and progression of women in health and medical research.
  7. Strategies to address the need for the provision of support for childcare.