Institute director recognised as a champion of gender equality

Institute director recognised as a champion of gender equality

15 April 2015

Professor Doug Hilton in the lab
Professor Doug Hilton has been named as one of 19 inaugural
‘Male Champions of Change’ for his work to redress gender
imbalance in the research workforce.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute director Professor Doug Hilton has been named as one of 20 inaugural ‘Male Champions of Change’ by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, for his work to improve the representation of women at senior levels of medical research.

The group, which includes Victorian-based leaders of fields including business, government, industry, the media, law enforcement, health and education, will work together to develop new approaches to improve gender equality in workplaces and communities.

Professor Hilton said the group would provide a valuable forum in which to discuss and enable existing and new strategies to redress gender imbalance in Victorian workplaces. “I am honoured to have been selected to join many outstanding leaders from diverse sectors of the Victorian community who have all made meaningful improvements to gender equity in their areas,” he said.

“Working together to promote and accelerate gender equality in Victoria is in the interests of all Victorians. From a business sense it is a no-brainer: our workplaces, and the state economy will benefit from the retention and promotion of the best talent we have. But I know all the Male Champions of Change are also committed to gender equality because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

“I am particularly delighted to be included in a group with Professor Glyn Davis, Vice Chancellor of The University Of Melbourne and Dr Gareth Goodier, CEO of Melbourne Health and a member of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute board. Parkville is a wonderful campus and gender equity is crucial for our future,” Professor Hilton said.

In the Australian medical research sector, women are poorly represented at senior levels, occupying fewer than 10 per cent of leadership roles. This is despite more than half of early career medical researchers being female.

Since becoming the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 2009, Professor Hilton has supported strategies at the institute that improve the retention of female researchers. One of his first actions on being appointed director was to establish the institute’s Gender Equity Committee to develop and implement policies and programs that remove barriers to women’s progression from student and postdoctoral positions to leadership roles.

Associate Professor Lynn Corcoran, Gender Equity committee co-chair, said Professor Hilton’s leadership had driven many initiatives aimed at giving women more opportunities to show off their achievements and be recognised by their peers for their work, and also for women with children to be supported to stay in the workforce. These include:

  • five-year fellowships for female laboratory heads;
  • a policy requiring equal representation of women as speakers or chairs at meetings;
  • lectures to showcase the performance of outstanding female scientists
  • leadership training and mentoring;
  • assistance for women with young children including provision of maternity leave cover, contract extensions, and childcare support; and 
  • ensuring workplace flexibility for people with family commitments.

“These policies have already contributed in a 20 per cent increase in the proportion of female laboratory heads at the institute, and we are continuing to work to improve the situation further. Much of the momentum for change at the institute has been a direct consequence of Doug’s personal commitment to the cause,” Associate Professor Corcoran said.

Further information:

Vanessa Solomon
Communications Adviser
P: +61 3 9345 2971
M: +61 431 766 715
E: solomon@wehi.edu.au