The UWA node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has been recognised by the Astronomical Society of Australia for its commitment to advancing women in astronomical sciences and technology.
The Pleiades Awards encourage organisations to adopt practices that support full participation of women at all levels of professional life, and acknowledge the importance of work-life balance in enabling the career development trajectory of many women.
Danail Obreschkow chairs ICRAR-UWA’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee and says the Silver Pleiades award recognises the Centre’s sustained record of having measures in place to encourage gender balance in the workplace.
“We’ve made really good progress but it’s an area that requires a continual commitment. As it stands we still have a gender imbalance however we are on the right track.
“In astronomy and research generally there is a good balance of gender at Masters and PhD level, however from here women’s participation begins to lag and drop off,” he says.
The Centre has three key areas of focus; raising awareness of gender related issues, providing career support for women and providing a safe channel for staff to report non-inclusive behaviour.
“The great thing is, it’s not just the Committee that is driving this work, everyone is on board. For example we have three or four talks on the subject each year and they’re really well attended and we also receive positive feedback from them.
“One key initiative we have established is the ICRAR Visiting Fellowship for Senior Women in Astronomy. This fellowship is aimed at providing an opportunity for senior women astronomers to visit ICRAR and interact with our researchers and graduate students.
“The Fellowship also creates opportunities for our young researchers to learn career development and work-life balance strategies from these international role models,” he says.
Danail describes ICRAR’s work in this area as a mini Athena SWAN and says it makes sense to promote gender equality in the workplace.
“To be the best institute, we need the best people, and having a diverse workforce is imperative to this. The same goes for the University as a whole, which is why Athena SWAN is such an important initiative.” Associate Director Renu Sharma says ICRAR is a very supportive, inclusive and diverse organisation that greatly values not only gender equality but also diversity.
“We’ve taken proactive and practical measures to create this environment and see this as an area of constant focus and attention.”
Renu says ICRAR has recently concluded a diversity survey to analyse how many countries, languages and previous work organisations are represented at ICRAR to better understand and support inclusion and diversity going forward.
“Staff and students are attracted from all over the globe. There are 33 languages spoken at ICRAR-UWA, English is the most common followed by German, French, Mandarin and Spanish and 26 countries are represented. We’re proud to have such a diverse workforce,” Renu says.