Female staff, students and alumni of the University of Sydney

Sydney women talk gender equity

3 October 2018
Female staff, students and alumni recently gathered to participate in an open discussion on the state of play for women in the workplace. Together they uncovered some hard truths but remained optimistic about the future.

Being a minority in the workplace can be difficult, but as society continues to tackle gender inequality at a national-level, organisations are recognising that differences should be celebrated. Unique perspectives often enhance innovation and provide solutions that more holistically satisfy all end-users.

Encouraging debate in this area, and hoping to inspire young women to pursue their passions regardless of gender norms, we met with several inspirational University women to hear about their experiences and pinpoint key learnings.

Together they discussed fluctuations in female participation over time, the obvious retention problem and the societal changes needed, particularly in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

The group also gave honest accounts of work and study and offered advice on finding the right career, the importance of mentoring and what makes a good leader.  


USYD round table: Gender equity

Meet our participants

Portrait shot of Professor Renae Ryan

Professor Renae Ryan

Renae is a biochemical pharmacologist from the School of Medical Sciences. She and her team are investigating molecular pumps on the surface of human cells to understand the role they play in diseases like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, stroke and cancer.

Renae is also the Academic Director of the University of Sydney Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program. She is passionate about improving gender equity in STEMM and dedicated to mentoring young researchers.

“Tackling issues of equity and diversity are difficult. They challenge our understanding of the system and our place in it – and that makes us feel uncomfortable and, at times, threatened. But we need to feel uncomfortable, and to honestly reflect on these issues, if we are to achieve real change.”


Portrait shot of Dr Jacqueline Thomas

Dr Jacqueline Thomas

Jacquie is a humanitarian engineer from the School of Civil Engineering. Her applied research aims to improve sanitation and water in Africa and the Pacific.

“As a woman in engineering, I have been most surprised by how varied workplaces can be with respect to inclusion of minorities. The best workplaces are those where people are focused on a common goal and you don’t even realise you are a minority. Your points of difference are acknowledged and even championed.”


Portrait shot of Annie Handmer

Annie Handmer

Annie is a postgraduate research student from the Faculty of Science. She is completing a Master of Philosophy by research on international cooperation in space, the challenges of space debris and militarisation.

“We should be encouraging everyone in Australia to be as widely educated as possible, because as my year 9 science teacher used to say, ‘Science doesn’t happen in a vacuum!’.”

Portrait shot of Dr Clara Chow

Dr Clara Chow

Clara is a cardiologist at Westmead Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney School of Medicine. She is the Academic Director of the Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC) and her research focuses on simple and scalable solutions to decrease the gap in prevention and reduce the burden of Cardiovascular Disease.

“I am continually surprised at the breadth of opportunity I have had to work with others throughout my career in STEMM.”

“As both a clinician and researcher, I have worked with not only those in the medical profession but also engineers, statisticians, software developers, lawyers, psychologists and researchers from all disciplines. Each of us bring together skills, experiences and insights that help us to tackle real world issues.”

Portrait shot of Dharmica Mistry

Dharmica Mistry

Dharmica Mistry is a Bachelor of Science graduate from the University of Sydney. She is now a Senior Scientist at BCAL Diagnostics, a research organisation developing a simple blood test to detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately.

“I think we under value the importance of networking. Within academia and also in industry. Make sure you run in both circles, you never know who you’ll meet and how it will impact your journey.”

Portrait shot of Shumi Ruan

Shumi Ruan

Shumi is a third-year Economics/Law student, who will commence Honours in 2019. She is passionate about getting women involved in community issues and policy discussions, and this led her to create the inaugural Women in Economics and Business Society on campus.

“I was confronted to find out that in School of Economics girls drop out of the course at almost double the rate of their male colleagues in the first two years.”

Portrait shot of Professor Leanne Togher

Professor Leanne Togher

Leanne is a speech pathologist who specialises in communication disorders following acquired brain injury. Working in the Faculty of Health Sciences, her research seeks to develop new treatments that are easily accessible for all people by creating a digital health platform.

“The wonderful thing about being a clinical researcher is that my career has enabled me the flexibility to be available to my family, rather than impeding this process.

“So, I view an academic career as a positive lifestyle choice which is enabling me to have the time and space to be available and present in family and other personal roles in addition to being an academic and clinical researcher.”


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