Addressing the gender bias in neuroscience

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function (CIBF) is committed to creating an environment where all staff and students are equally respected and valued and enjoy equity of both opportunity and outcomes.

Our Centre is passionate about the growth and future of brain research in Australia. Key to this aim is training, supporting and promoting the next generation of researchers and scientific leaders through their career, irrespective of background, culture, age, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

A range of barriers affect career progression and equitable access to opportunities for a range of groups in society. Studies show that women researchers make up about 50 percent of the PhD students and post-docs in many scientific research fields, but their career progression is negatively impacted by structural barriers, which results in a significant loss of knowledge, talent and investment. Women occupy less than 20 percent of senior researcher positions in Australian universities and research institutes, and are significantly underrepresented in achieving funding success. Furthermore, people with sensory or physical impairments, people of colour, people with English as a second language and some religious groups may not have equitable access to opportunities as other groups.

Our commitments to improve gender balance, equity and diversity

Employment considerations

CIBF will work to ensure that all Centre positions are advertised as available either on a full-time or part-time basis, where not constrained by funding timelines.

All advertisements for Centre positions will be proof read with a careful eye to ensure they use inclusive language with regards to gender, race and culture.

Assistance will be given with relocation questions re: schools, childcare and employment opportunities for partners, as far as is practical.

The majority of members of interview/ employment panels will have received unconscious bias training which has been followed up with appropriate resources and support.

Centre-funded conferences and workshops

Centre members are urged to consider cultural, racial and sexual diversity when choosing a conference venue, to ensure unrestricted attendance. For example, some countries have travel restrictions, laws or customs that make it difficult for some people to attend; for example, on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

All presenters and CIBF members are encouraged to follow the recommendations made in the Centre’s Accessibility Guidelines to ensure their oral presentations are accessible to all members of an audience and are as inclusive as possible for people with any accessibility issues.

All CIBF-supported conferences will aim for a target of no fewer than 30% men or women on the local organising committee and scientific organising committee.

All CIBF-supported conferences will aim for a target of no fewer than 30% men or women as invited speakers, chairpersons and for selected presentations.

Where possible CIBF-supported events will have facilities available for breast feeding mothers, and include a family outing where feasible.

Caregiver Travel Grant

This initiative is aimed at supporting Centre fellows, researchers and professional staff with caregiver responsibilities, to participate in significant national and international conferences, workshops, symposia or Centre-related events as per the CIBF Caregiver Travel Grant Top-up. The aim of this grant is to acknowledge that the under-representation of women at senior levels can be connected to the ongoing tension both men and women may experience between caring responsibilities and career advancement.

Core meetings

All core Centre meetings will be conducted between the hours of 10am – 2pm where practical or preferable for participants of that particular meeting. Centre meetings will be made available for remote attendance by Zoom or similar as required.

Children are permitted in meetings where childcare is not available and where children are not disruptive.

Family friendly work hours

Staff are not required to work and send or answer emails outside of normal work hours, and this behaviour is modelled by CIs as far as is practicable.

Staff are permitted to work from home where practicable.

All staff are encouraged to take their annual leave and are not expected to work during this time. 

Accessibility guidelines

We have created a set of guidelines for all speakers to ensure that their presentations are accessible for everyone in the audience. We have focused on providing simple guidance on how to make presentations accessible for hearing- and vision-impaired audience members.

These Guidelines have been well-received by the scientific community, and has formed the basis of initiatives by other neuroscientific groups, including the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society.

Enhancing diversity

For Centre members for whom English is a second language various services are available through our administrative and collaborative institutions.

Employee assistance programs

Our administrative and collaborative institutions offer a wide range of professional counselling and support programs to help improve the overall wellbeing of our Centre members.

We believe in sharing knowledge. We use a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which allows unrestricted use of this content, subject only to appropriate attribution. So please use this information as is, or edit it to fit your purposes. Referrals, mentions and links are appreciated.

Gender, Equity and Diversity Committee Chair – Dr Sharna Jamadar

Dr Sharna Jamadar is Chair for the Centre’s Gender, Equity and Diversity Committee, which aims to create an environment where all staff and students are equally respected and valued and enjoy equity of both opportunity and outcomes.

Dr Jamadar is a cognitive neuroscientist interested in how our life experiences shape our brains. She is interested in how these life experiences may convey risk or protection against the ageing process; and also how becoming a parent shapes our brains in the short and long term. She is highly interdisciplinary in her approach, and uses multiple neuroimaging methods (fMRI, PET, EEG, optical imaging) together with cognitive, behavioural, and psychosocial measures, to understand brainbehaviour relationships.

Dr Jamadar currently leads the Cognitive Neuroimaging program at Monash Biomedical Imaging, and workclosely with her colleagues from engineering, physics, radiography, epidemiology, philosophy and social science to understand the multiple facets of the human brain and its interaction with the world. She is a recognised advocate for diversity and accessibility in STEM, and an advocate for early career researchers in neuroscience.

Dr Jamadar established the Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society (ACNS) ECR Committee in 2015; and the ACNS Equity and Diversity Committee in 2019; in 2020 she was elected as Secretary to the ACNS Executive Committee. In 2016 she co-founded the Australasian Women in Neuroscience network with Prof Lindy Fitzgerald; and in 2019 she was invited to serve on the Australian Academy of Science Equity and Diversity Reference Group. 

View more information about Dr Sharna Jamadar.