Male Champions of Change: talk by Sex Discrimination Commissioner

Male Champions of Change: talk by Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick

A/Prof Megan Warin and Prof Vivienne Moore were invited to attend a talk by Elizabeth Broderick, the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on the Male Champions of Change initiative which she established four years ago.  As many of you know, in June the VC announced that as part of the Dornwell Framework that the University will adopt the MCC initiative as a means of improving gender equity.

The talk took place on campus and present were many of the Male Champions of Change including the VC, the DVCR, the Chief Operating Officer, and the Dean of Law.  Other attendees were the DVCA, members of the WPDN, GED, SRC, HR, Legal and Risk. (Unfortunately, due to a late change of time, Dr Natalie Edwards could not attend to represent the Academic Women’s Forum).

From the outset, it was recognized that Male Champions of Change is somewhat controversial.  Ms Broderick explained that the name ‘Champion’ does not refer to the person’s past actions but to the responsibilities that these senior men have agreed to carry out in order to achieve change in the University.  She emphasised that such change could only occur if the Champions listened to the voices of women who work at the University.

A key message was that the initiative is about making men accountable.  The initiative is unashamedly about men and changing men’s behaviour. Changing gender equity should not be the sole responsibility of women.  She noted that despite women’s concerted efforts, and wider societal shifts in women’s roles, women’s status in organisations has not sufficiently shifted.  Men continue to hold the levers of power in institutions and they need to change this ownership if they truly believe in equality.

Ms Broderick said: “The men who step up to Male Champions of Change are passionate about change, and willing to be brave and courageous to make change. The time of talking is over, this initiative is about change and action.”  She stressed listening to women’s stories, which requires that a safe space is developed for such narratives.

Ms Broderick pointed out that the Male Champions of Change initiative does not aim to duplicate existing strategies but to add to the tool kit for transforming the institution.  It aims to fix the system – it does not consider women as the problem, in need of fixing.

Ms Broderick observed some women who have reached the top are ambivalent or resistant to Male Champions of Change initiatives.  Such resistance may reflect a view that, since they have succeeded in the system, the system can’t be the problem.  Such women may not understand why other women can’t succeed, or they may feel their achievements are undermined by different ways of addressing gender equity.

The Male Champions of Change initiative requires its members to ensure that women make up 50% of participants in all roles and activities (such as speakers at conferences).  A Male Champion of Change should ask ‘if not, why not?’.  Ms Broderick said that change will be apparent not only through metrics but also through a cultural shift  – we will have succeeded with gender equity when firstly, people stop rolling their eyes when it is mentioned and secondly, when women academics want to come to the University as they know it supports women.

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