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Professor Andrew Deeks

President & Vice Chancellor


In my experience, Gender Equity can only be achieved through genuine and personal commitment by leaders – leaders at all levels, but most important leadership at the top. Joining CEOs for Gender Equity is to me a way of demonstrating that commitment within the University and without, and an opportunity to share my learnings in this space and to learn from the experiences of others. 

My personal commitment to Gender Equity started as a junior member of academic staff promoting Women in Engineering. As a Head of School at UWA, I proactively recruited women into academic positions in the school to start to address the gender imbalance, then at Durham University as Pro Vice Chancellor for Science I led the University’s successful submission for its first institutional Athena Swan Award. Athena Swan is an internationally recognised framework for gender equity, diversity and inclusion.

As President of University College Dublin, I learnt the value of encouraging capable women to put themselves forward for leadership roles and championing gender equity in the institution. When I joined there was only one woman on the university management team, but by the time I left, not only was the university management team gender balanced, but also the Governing Authority and the Academic Council. 

I have been delighted to return to Perth to take up the opportunity to lead Murdoch University. 

Since our foundation in 1974, Murdoch University has pioneered pathways into higher education for women from diverse backgrounds – including mothers, carers, Indigenous women, and older women.  

Widening access to education for people who have previously been excluded has long been recognised as an effective approach to “levelling up” society. Murdoch University has been a pioneer of this approach for 50 years.  

Our current – and first female Chancellor – is a great case in point. Gail McGowan was a mother of three children under the age of eight, living in a small country town, when she made the decision to enrol at Murdoch University via correspondence.  

After completing her studies, she went on to have an illustrious career at the apex of State and Federal government. As she has said: “Murdoch enabled me to study as a young mum and so I am passionate about educational opportunity, and passionate about the role universities play in developing that continuum of opportunity for new generations.” 

Intrinsic in Gail’s statement is the view that progress in breaking down barriers – including those still faced by women - must never stop. And so, Murdoch University continues to push the envelope to ensure new generations of women – and indeed people from a great diversity of backgrounds – can realise their potential through the life-changing power of education.  

Today, I am delighted to say that Murdoch University is a gender diverse, welcoming and inclusive university. More than 60% of our staff are female, and around the same percentage of our onshore students are also female. 

Some of the most significant Murdoch University initiatives we have undertaken to facilitate greater gender equity across our campuses include:  

SAGE Athena Swan Bronze accreditation 
Attained in 2020, the University is currently pursuing Silver accreditation. Our initial focus is on people who seek to work flexibly - including part-time, variable hours, and hybrid arrangements due to: 

·        Career disruptions associated with caring commitments, which mainly affects women. 

·        Personal physical and/or mental health challenges. 

·        Specific access, religious or cultural considerations that warrant different work hours.    

Training to empower all staff to understand and act on gendered harm, including: 
·        Domestic Violence Alert training. 

·        Bystander Intervention training. 

·        Sexual Harm Policy and Procedures training (and Sexual Harm Support Officers). 

Events to develop, support and celebrate women, including: 
·        An annual Women in STEMM research symposium. 

·        Annual Indigenous academic women’s writing retreat. 

·        Annual International Women’s Day event. 
Murdoch is also undergoing reviews of policies and systems for inclusive language and processes in promotions; recruitment; achievement relative to opportunity guidelines; a new Human Resources Management System (WorkDay) for more transparent and timely oversight of gender disparity across disciplines and business areas; and a Flexible Work Policy.  

Other activities include more breastfeeding rooms; easy access parking bays for pregnant women; a Parental Leave Toolkit; biennial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion surveys; and Menopause in the Workplace webinars.  

Alongside these important initiatives, Murdoch’s new Strategy – Ngala Kwop Biddi: Building a brighter future, together has Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as one of three key strategic themes. 

Through the Strategy, we are determined to build a “welcoming, diverse and inclusive community and environment that is equitable and safe.” 

While Murdoch is very focused on the issue of gender equity, we also recognise this remains a significant issue for society at large. That is why I am proud to be a member of CEOs for Gender Equity, and to support the group’s vision to accelerate gender equity in Western Australia.  


CEO Conversation.


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