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Women higher education professionals commit to mentoring and building networks to boost the numbers of women in leadership roles in Australian institutions

17 Jul 2023 | Advance HE Participants attending a women’s leadership event hosted by Advance HE and Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) in Perth also said that it was important to challenge systemic issues in order to battle inequality.

More than 60 higher education professionals who attended a women’s leadership event in Perth, Australia, highlighted the hurdles facing women as they develop as leaders, and identified their signature strengths that could drive change.

They also discussed the ways in which specialised leadership development initiatives could help them in their efforts to overcome some of the barriers they are currently facing. 

The women were taking part in a women’s leadership event hosted by Advance HE and SAGE at Edith Cowan University in Perth.

Group of 14 women smiling

Advance HE’s flagship women’s leadership programme Aurora has supported more than 10,000 higher education professionals since its launch ten years ago.

In their work in women’s leadership development, both SAGE and the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes have produced plans to tackle under-representation of women in STEMM and research senior leadership roles and a lack of diversity amongst those in decision-making roles.


Two woman smiling

“Everyone has their own internal story to tell about what drives them to want to make a real impact in their field,” said Advance HE chief executive Alison Johns who kicked off the event together with SAGE chair Libby Lyons.

"The big question this event aimed to address was how we collectively can support women to succeed and fulfil their leadership ambitions. Our theme of ‘leading with purpose’ allowed us all to explore critical aspects of leadership, address the challenges and opportunities specifically faced by women leaders and the roles we can all play in influencing change and shaping the future. “

Interactive session

In the second half of the session, Advance HE Lead Consultant, Leadership, Research and Organisational Development Fiona Lennoxsmith led an interactive session with delegates to reflect on their own unique sense of purpose and options for change to bring about meaningful impact for higher education in gender equality and women’s leadership.


Woman standing, engaging with a group of female course participants
Women at desk with two more on screen behind them

“When asked to identify the next hurdle they faced in their leadership journey, women’s message was clear,” said Fiona Lennoxsmith.

“It was opportunity and more specifically, promotion. They also identified support and time as other key factors influencing their progression, and resilience, courage and self-belief as some significant strengths that could be brought to bear in change-making

“When it came to pinpointing the benefits they gained from even a single women’s leadership event, they highlighted the chance it gave them to expand and strengthen their networks and build support and confidence.  I was particularly inspired to see women building connections with each other online and in the room.

“Earlier this year, Advance HE published a report showing that 78 per cent of women who were already informally leading in higher education worldwide felt ready to step into formal leadership roles within their organisations, raising the question of how universities might foster growth and enable development a across systems of leadership.

“With our strong focus on gender equality and progression through both our equality charters and our global women’s leadership development programmes,  Advance HE sees this event as a starting point for deeper collaboration with partners in Australia to develop and support solutions."

Two women talking
Two women leading a session with a screen behind them

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