I dream of becoming an academic at the Australian National University doing advanced space instrumentation. How my heart leapt at ANU ads last month for ten positions in the exact-same specialty.
Great! Dial me up $138,583 pay plus 17% superannuation for four years, with tenure ahead. Up to $500,000 research funding. Twenty-six weeks paid parental leave plus six weeks’ career re-entry assistance (fatherhood has never looked so enticing). Lots of fun calibrating space stations and 25-metre Giant Magellan telescopes. I’d also parade at Mt Stromlo, one-upping ANU bigshot Brian Schmidt and his puny one-quarter of a Nobel.
I dusted off my deep-space credentials — but what’s this in fine print?
*Important note: applications will only be accepted by applicants identifying as women.
My space dreams re-entered terra firma as a smoking black heap. I felt gutted.
One last chance: they’ll also take “gender-diverse” applicants. I do identify as a filly on Friday nights cooking fish and chips for wifey, decked in my gingham apron. And on gender, I enjoy Wagner’s five-hour operas, which might tick the “queer” box on my LGBTIQA+ spectrum. Even so, the ANU’s petticoat tyranny is sure to bin my resume.
The campaign of the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) is run by Deputy Director Prof. Celine d’Orgeville, “a world-renowned Inclusion Diversity Equity and Access (IDEA) champion.” She frets that her team has only eight women out of 47, a mere 17 per cent. “Business-as-usual doesn’t shift the dial on women’s representation in our field, and it’s way too low,” she says.
Prof d’Orgeville’s ten new women-only appointments, classed as “identified positions”, would bring the ratio to a third, “and when minorities reach that level of representation, they start having a voice and the culture changes.” She’s convinced that having diversity of perspectives, ethnicity, culture, physical and mental abilities and “gender diversity in the broader sense of the term” will boost creativity and success.
I’m such a silly-billy: I imagined that sex discrimination and equal-opportunity laws discouraged women-only recruitment.
Where next? My hobby is detecting Einstein’s gravitational waves. ANU Centre for Gravitational Astrophysics (CGA) offers an assistant-professor job ($138,583 at my seniority). But look at the damned fine print:
“The Centre is taking a proactive action towards this [diversity and inclusion] goal by opening this position to female applicants only.”
Imagine a university job ad reading, “Vacancy for a Vice-Chancellor. Melbourne University-level gigantic salary, $1.5m. For macho men only. The LGBTIQA+ crowd and people identifying as women and/or Golden Retrievers can all get lost. Our university is an equal opportunity employer – except when we ain’t.”
ANU is not alone with its women-only recruiting. Swarms of other universities are at it too. Australia’s 40-year legal progress towards equal opportunity for males and females is white-anted by these progressive academics (the same ones who aren’t sure who’s a woman in the first place). Their flimsy rationale is to level up the sex ratios in their fields.
How successful are the women-only ads at hoovering up qualified women? Not very, apparently.
In November, the RMIT node  of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems provided feedback from its “women-only recruitment round”. This involved 13 women-only jobs and two “First Nations” slots (any gender). Maybe “First Nations” males in academia count as honorary females. Using the insane leftist jargon now blanketing academia, Chief Operations Officer Dr Mary Gray began by announcing how
“Patriarchy and racism are systems that exclude women, people of colour, and those living with disability from accessing the full benefits of the post-industrialised workforce.”
I feel sorry for Dr Gray because her centre rashly set a target of 40 per cent woman researchers by 2026 and now “we are being held accountable to this target by the Australian Research Council.”
Her recruitment exercise included beating away pathetic male optical physicists and engineers, many of whom — desperate for consideration — insisted on applying anyway. Qualified women hung back, needing strokes and reassurance, forcing the recruiters into what Dr Gray called “dozens and dozens of conversations.” In the end they got 311 applicants and filled a meagre five positions with women (37.5% of the advertised jobs). “We consider this an outstanding achievement, especially in the context of 2020!” she wrote, referring to covid issues.
Their attempt to fill an Aboriginal-only optics job at ANU was aborted as just too hard. I guess Aborigines with transformative meta-optical expertise aren’t all that thick on the ground, even in Canberra let alone Wadeye. Dr Gray says that on the challenge of recruiting women
We appear to be in a position of an ugly compromise between delivering on our scientific objectives and building our diverse workforce. Globally there are enough women, with the right expertise to fill every single postdoctoral position in our Centre! However, Australia has been one of the world’s most locked-down countries globally and, in our disciplines, we are reliant on the international job market. Effectively, the pandemic has reduced the flow of new postdoctoral students and researchers into Australia to a trickle and competition is fierce to obtain women researchers.
The competition is excellent for women, which we applaud … In practice, we have struggled to stick to our gender target in 2021. We must keep proving that it doesn’t have to be research goals versus diversity goals. The big picture objectives of building a diverse workforce for research excellence and the creation of transformative technologies in meta-optics is paramount. Integrity, accountability, and taking steps forward to recruit more women when international travel resumes is a priority for 2022 and 2023.
All this women-only monopolisation might be lawful, but it doesn’t pass the pub test. The legislative loophole was designed, according to the Human Rights Commission, for helping groups “who face, or have faced, entrenched discrimination so they can have similar access to opportunities as others in the community.” ANU-wise, there aren’t a lot of women, women-identifiers and LGBTQIA+s with space-optic ambitions now sleeping rough in Petrie Plaza after being cruelly knocked back for space jobs. Probably young women just don’t care about space-optics, and gravitate instead to school-teaching, law, health careers or Virgilian poetics.
There’s no university push to encourage males into female-dominated sectors, let alone go the whole hog and offer male-only student admissions and male-only faculty positions. More on that aspect shortly.
You might be wondering how the female-only ads square with equal opportunity – considering that they give males zero opportunity. Well, all the various Acts have permitted exemptions or “special measures”, originally intended for women’s refuge staffers or corsetiers and the like. They were uncontroversial despite their broad wording.
For example, the Federal Sex Discrimination Act has a get-out clause (7D) saying an employer “may take special measures for the purpose of achieving substantive equality between men and women” and between, for example, “women who are breastfeeding and people who are not breastfeeding.” [Disclosure of interest: I am among the “people who are not breastfeeding”].
The Victorian Act equivalent, similarly, says (S12) “special measures” are “for the purpose of promoting or realising substantive equality for members of a group with a particular attribute.”
From 2015 the universities began using the loophole for their women-only ads. Initially, there were doubts in legal circles that they’d get away with it. Employers in Victoria invoking the “special measures” in effect got a letter of comfort from Victoria’s Equal (sic) Opportunity and Human [i.e. Female] Rights Commission as follows:
“A university may identify an inequality – that women are under-represented in its academic workforce within a particular faculty. The causes of the under-representation may include a lack of female candidates for positions, a lack of female academic staff to act as role models, unconscious bias in recruitment practices or other societal and organisational-specific factors.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission defined “identified positions” , e.g. for women only, as helping “people who experience disadvantage to access equal opportunity in employment.” In fact, a woman associate professor ensconced in a useless gender studies department suffers no disadvantage over not being in a STEM area. The women-only push is coming from employers who feel disadvantaged by having too many blokes around. No bragging rights there. The Victorian commission in a case study actually rules out a co-ed high school offering an academic scholarship for girls under 14, on the basis that such girls don’t have any disadvantage and the school is really just doing a marketing exercise to attract girl students.
Note that the Victorian HR Commission has shown no interest that in Victoria in 2019, male students were only 24% in university school-education courses (27% nationally), 27% in health (26%), and 31% in “Society and Culture” (34%), according to data from the federal Department of Education. In the hot-button field of “natural and physical sciences”, women students are well represented nationally at 51%. Conversely, they’re slightly under-represented in management/commerce (46%) and architecture (41%), and greatly under-represented in IT (19%), and engineering (18%).
Overall, universities have become bastions for female students. For domestic (non-overseas) undergrad and post-grad students (total 1.086m in 2019), the ratio is 59% females to 41% males. Yet universities continue to cosset female students with “women’s centres” and other privileges not offered to males.
In pre-school teaching, males nationally comprise a near-invisible 2% versus females’ 98%, according to last year’s census.
WA sports a mere 27 men pre-school teachers vs 3507 women; NSW and Victoria combined muster a mere 448 men pre-school teachers vs 16,768 women. Not much of that oh-so-necessary “diversity and inclusion” there. But imagine the clamour from feminists if a pre-school tried to correct these gross imbalances via “men-only” recruitment ads. Indeed, men seeking pre-school and primary teaching roles would have a valid case of discrimination, given the general unfounded fear that they might sexually abuse children. (Another reason they’re opting out is that the only other male employee is often just the gardener). In school teaching, the lack of male teachers is not only concerning but deteriorates annually. Overall, males have slipped in 50 years from 41.3% to barely 28%. ABS 2021 data show that male primary teachers were 20.2% in 2006, decreasing annually to a mere 18.0% last year. In secondary teaching, males have slipped from 43.4% in 2006 to 38.8% last year.
Perhaps this stacking of schools with women teachers is a factor in girls ignoring STEM careers?
Down by the Zoo, University of Melbourne started its women-only ads six years ago, chasing three women-only maths/stats senior staff. Last month it advertised for a “Professor in Conservation Biology, Women Only”, worth $204,320 a year plus the usual copious perks. Under “About You” the ad reads,
“You will be an outstanding academic woman with expertise in conservation biology, with an excellent research publication record …”
The fine print includes,
In line with the special measure H103/2014 provided for under section 12 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (VIC), the Faculty of Science invites applications from suitably qualified candidates who identify as women, this includes cis and transgender women.
When I last checked, “cis” means people who were born male or female, and continue to identify as male or female respectively. Yes, it’s a weird habit but it suits some of us to align our gender with our genitalia.
Moreover, Melbourne’s lucky cis or transgender or woman-identifying appointee can access “internal School and Faculty grant schemes, including a dedicated scheme for women … This is a fantastic opportunity to work in a culturally rich and values-based environment.” Assuming, that is, you’re not an excluded male.
UoM has also beat the bushes for an engineering lecturer (males not wanted) at up to $117,290, including bids for five “female only” staff in 2018, and at Monash there have been ads for at least five women-only positions. At Adelaide University, a similar deal.
I don’t know how many women-only jobs are up for grabs in the private sector. You can find scores of private jobs on recruiting websites via the screening tool “Women only” but only a few explicitly exclude males. Stile Education, based at Abbotsford, Vic., is recruiting a software engineering intern “for young women, non-binary and female-identifying Year 12 graduates”. Stile says, “It’s great if you’ve had some coding experience already, but totally cool if you don’t.”
How does the diversity angle look from the viewpoint of gender-diverse people in science? There’s a global support group of such employees called “Pride in STEM”. They ran two British podcasts last November led by the black and queer geoscientist Dr Craig Poku (pronouns he/they), who interviewed colleagues Anuradha Damale (she/her, a bisexual/pansexual earth scientist), James Brumpton (he/him), and Bengali woman Nuzhat Tabassum of the Natural History Museum. Among their points:
# Science employers unfairly expect them to do unpaid work “representing” diverse communities when as individuals they have no insight into lived experienced of other minorities. For example, Bengalis, Pakistanis and Indians are distinct cultures.
♦ Employers should pay for specialist consultants. (James) “Do your f—king homework and actually engage with the trans community and make sure that you understand from someone who has had that lived experience. It’s not my job to give you that. It aggravates me.”
♦ Anuradha: “Something that a lot of cis, het, or normative folks struggle with is thinking that getting a quote from a person of colour or a minority or a queer person and sticking it in an article makes them amazing because they’ve done a bit for diversity.”
♦ They all suffer microaggressions inflicted by the white male culture, and benefit from mentoring by others like themselves.
Universities advertising for women-only and gender-diverse-only positions will soon be the new normal. Move along, nothing to see here. You “cis males” can just suck it up. The petticoat tyrants are on the march!
Tony Thomas’ essay collection “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available from publisher ConnorCourt. A new title, “Anthem of the Unwoke —Yep! the other lot’s gone bonkers”, is in production
 “This is an equal employment opportunity measure aiming to increase representation of women in the field of instrumentation for astronomy and space. This special measure aims to increase employment opportunities for and representation of women in the workplace where women have been, and continue to be, underrepresented.”
 The Centre involves five universities in four States and Territories.
 Example: Academic scholarship for girls
A co-educational school wants to set up an academic scholarship program for girl students aged under fourteen (that is, years 7 and 8). The scholarship will be offered to one girl student applicant each year on the basis of academic merit. This action will impact positively on girl students aged 14 and under, but negatively on boy students and other girl students over 14 years of age. The action does not appear to be remedial in nature – that is, there is not enough information to demonstrate that girl students at the school aged under 14 are disadvantaged, and the scholarship is designed to overcome that disadvantage. The purpose of the action is likely to be to attract more girl students to attend a school.
 Occupational raw data analysed through ABS TableBuilder.
 Expired. “Melbourne School of Engineering: In line with the special measure H103/2014 provided for under section12 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (VIC), the Melbourne School of Engineering strongly encourages applications from suitably qualified women in academia. Salary: $98,775 – $117,290 p.a. plus 17% superannuation.”