In 2019, UOW Vice-Chancellor Prof Paul Wellings signed a university-wide commitment to meet and address the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To help address SDG5 (Gender equality – empower women and ensure their equal rights) and SDG10 (reduced inequalities – support the marginalized and disadvantaged)] and indirectly SDG3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), and SDG8 (decent work for all, reduce gender pay gap, promote safe and secure working environments) a newly created Associate Deans for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (AD EDI) position was announced for each faculty.

Dr Mark Freeman, who we recently interviewed, was appointed to serve as Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for EIS. In this key leadership role, he will lead the enhance the culture, performance and collegiality Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Multiculturalism, and hold the school accountable for reaching its goals. In our Q&A, Mark gives insight into his new role.

1. Why did the Faculty decide to create an Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion?

My role was created as part of a UOW initiative to enhance the culture, performance and collegiality of staff in EIS. I am one of several AD (EDI)’s across the university, with each of the four faculties at UOW now having a similar position. My role is designed to ensure that we embed and build on the principles of the Athena SWAN initiative and other equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives at UOW within EIS.

Since starting the role in July, I have been part of several working parties reviewing UOW’s Athena SWAN Action plan, the Reconciliation Action Plan and the Protecting UOW Research Excellence (PURE) Futures Committee.

The AD (EDI) role is designed to be available for all staff with an EDI issue or recommendation to be able to freely discuss the matter with me so that we can all work towards at better EIS.

2.      Clearly diversity within the workforce is always going to be a “work in progress,” but in terms of an end goal, what does diversity actually look like?

We all know that EIS can do a lot better in terms of basic metrics such as male/female ratios. However, given the current COVID-19 situation, hiring staff to change our ratio is not something that is currently possible or deemed beneficial to the faculty. Instead, in the current EIS environment around gender equity, our focus is to develop a culture where staff of all genders work together and call for change. I believe that ensuring that our workforce is a reflection of our diverse population – in terms of gender and cultural diversity – is critical for EIS and UOW’s success.

It’s also my aim that, when my term comes to a close, I have helped to boost equal representation of diverse community groups throughout EIS and that my role becomes normalised within the faculty. I hope that by the end of this two-year term that I have promoted the growth of a more culturally, linguistically and gender diverse EIS faculty.

3.      Why do you care about diversity and inclusion?

I have been a member of the UOW community for over 20 years, both as a student and a staff member. I value the diversity of the workforce and believe that we are all part of a team striving to achieve a better UOW.

Diversity is a key characteristic I have always respected in the UOW workforce, among my academic and professional colleagues, but also among the student population. Diversity in culture and gender shouldn’t be a revolutionary idea – it is a baseline norm of the way we all exist, naturally, and work with each other as people. Diversity and inclusion allows us to benefit from the richness of difference while celebrating mutual human connections.

Having been involved in community and industry outreach programs within SCIT for over a decade, I also recognise the need for more women in senior roles within the faculty and the discipline areas that the faculty creates graduates for.

4.      Who is involved in the membership of your diversity working group? What types of responsibilities does this group take on?

This is currently a work in progress. I have been in discussions with each of the Heads of School in EIS about what they believe are the strengths and weaknesses from an EDI perspective. As part of our Athena SWAN Bronze Award, UOW is committed to have equity champions within each of the STEMM disciplines in the university. EIS is in the process of establishing these roles within each of the schools. As a university, the group of AD (EDI)s is working towards establishing Terms of Reference for Faculty EDI committee.

It is my hope that these committees will one day have the same level of influence as the committees within the other AD portfolios (Research, Education and International). The initial responsibility will be to conduct a survey with all EIS staff, and then conduct a stocktake of EIS from an EDI perspective, looking into concerns of faculty staff and reporting of any bias when it comes to issues such as workload allocation.

5.      What do you see as the most beneficial aspect of diversity and inclusion for the workplace?

I believe that all staff need to be brought into the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion conversation. Consider this: in our day-to-day lives, we often hear that males should commit to gender equity by wanting a better world for their wives or daughters. But what if a male was also to say that they supported gender equity for the future of their sons – so that they would be raised to actively help to create a more diverse future for women. Or if they were to question the narrow definitions of their own gender-based roles? I mention this scenario because I believe diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility.

If we view gender inequity as something that is the responsibility of only women, then we are only looking at one side of the picture. If we see that we can all benefit from gender equity, then we can start to have a more engaging and meaningful conversation about change.

 

If you have any concerns regarding Equity, Diversity or Inclusion within EIS please contact Mark Freeman (mfreeman@uow.edu.au).