25 October 2019

The ARC released its Gender and the Research Workforce report on Thursday, 10 October 2019.

When the State of Australian University Research 2018–19: ERA National Report was released, the ARC anticipated releasing a separate, complementary topic-based report on gender. The Gender and the Research Workforce report uses data from Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018 as well as data from previous ERA rounds to provide insight into Australian university research workforce.

ERA is a national evaluation of research quality and research activity within Australia’s higher education institutions. Gender data is collected as part of the staffing data collection for ERA. It is used for analysis and reporting, but does not inform the research quality evaluation. Gender data were first collected in the ERA 2015 evaluation round. In line with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, institutions provided the gender of each eligible researcher as either 'male', 'female', or 'X (indeterminate/intersex/unspecified)'.

The Gender and the Research Workforce report provides a genuinely new insight into the Australian university research workforce. The report is produced in an interactive HTML format, which provides flexibility for users to generate their own charts and graphs. It includes: an analysis of the research workforce, in terms of FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) and headcount as submitted for the ERA 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018 rounds; an analysis of gender data by headcount from ERA 2015 and 2018; and analysis of staffing profile by headcount of ERA 2018 data, by two-digit Fields of Research, showing staffing profile by gender, employment level, status and function.

The key statistic out of this report is that the ratio of men to women in the research workforce was 56:44 in 2018—this is a small incremental improvement on the ratio of 57:43 in 2015. The report also shows that the proportion of male and female researchers varies greatly between research disciplines. Female researchers outnumber males in just five of the disciplines out of the twenty-two measured by the report. These include the Education discipline—which has 65 per cent female researchers—followed by Language, Communication and Culture, Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Studies in Human Society, and Medical and Health Sciences—with 52 per cent females. At the other end of the spectrum, the report found that Physical Sciences and Engineering have just 19 per cent female researchers.

The results of this report reinforce many well-known trends regarding gender distribution in the Australian research workforce, including the low proportion of women at senior academic levels—although the report found that there was gender parity at the early career researcher level.

The report clearly shows that there is a still long a way to go to achieve gender balance within the Australian university research community.