Today the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes celebrates International Women’s day. This year’s UN theme is:

The history of women’s rights in Australia is one of steady progress over time with many steps forward but occasionally a few steps back. Women first gained the right to vote in 1902 but it was not until 1962 that Indigenous women were allowed to vote.

In the area of science, Edith Emily Dornwell was first Australian science graduate in 1883 but it was not until 1946 that Dorothy Hill, a geologist and palaeontologist became the first female professor at an Australian university and the first female president of the Australian Academy of Science. Penny Sackett was the first female Australian Chief scientist in 2008.

Closer to home, the Centre has made its own progress. In 2017 22% of Chief Investigators were women, now in 2024, it’s 46%. In 2017, 32% of PhD students were women, today in 2024, we now have 48%. 

“When I first started at the Centre in 2012, I was often the only woman in the room. Now I look around and I’m surrounded by my peers.” 
– Associate Professor Melissa Hart, Graduate Director at the Centre.

While important progress has been made, women face significant obstacles to achieving equal participation. Women continue to experience significant barriers in the workplace, particularly for women facing multiple intersectionalities. 

“While we’ve made progress in advancing gender representation, there is still a noticeable absence of women who are navigating other intersectionalities, including diverse cultural backgrounds or where English is a second language. Australia is a multicultural nation so embracing diversity needs a multidimensional lens”.
– Dr Negin Nazarian, Chief Investigator at the Centre.

It’s not just about having an even gender split, but creating a culture where diverse women are supported, heard and considered in decision making at all levels. Accelerating progress is important to ensure that equal opportunities are accessible for all women and diverse gender identities.