by Lauren DuFall
The ARC Training Centre for Future Crops held a number of events this month for International Women’s Day and in support of the Women in Crop Science network.
International Women’s Day discussions were held at both the Australian National University and University of Adelaide nodes, reflecting on the progress our society has made over recent decades and how much we still have to do. Challenges highlighted include the lack of women on boards (22% of governing boards in Australia that have no female board members) and the discrepancy in the number of women in senior professors relative to men (in Australia only 32% of “above senior lecturer” faculty positions are held by women ). As we made progress on gender equity, we need to maintain focus on intersectionality, considering the multitude of other varying factors that affect women’s likelihood of success in their roles. Another challenge for the Centre is the interdisciplinary nature across STEM and humanities where there are very different awards and where we are working across these spaces, that may present a challenge in ensuring equity. Our Training Centre students and ECRs are already engaging with industry and how do we prepare them to deal with some of the situations they will ultimately find themselves in within a broader Agricultural context, whether it be events with lack of cultural and gender diversity, facing unconscious biases or not being able to easily relate or connect to people in those situations.
Both nodes participated in Women in Crop Science coffee sessions, an initiative that aims to create further opportunities for promoting and developing the visibility of women as role models in the crop science community. By building a stronger network, the network aims to ensure greater inclusion in the future (https://womenincropscience.org/). A discussion on mentorship focusing on women in crop science was held over coffee at the ANU with Centre fellows, students and colleagues from the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT). Many shared their experiences of having a number of informal mentors across their careers who played significant roles in supporting awareness of their own strengths, encouraged them to go for new opportunities or awards and introducing them to others in their network to build new connections. Sharing of experiences is an important way that enables people to draw on the experiences of others when they encounter new challenges. The importance of peer-to-peer mentoring was also highlighted, and we have unique opportunities within the Centre to build a culture of mentorship that will harness the value of the diverse experiences and knowledge that exists amongst our cohort.
 Khan, T.; Siriwardhane, P. Barriers to Career Progression in the Higher Education Sector: Perceptions of Australian Academics. Sustainability 2021, 13, 6255. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116255