Macquarie University
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Compromise and symbolic gestures: the complexity of implementing a gender equity measure in STEM organisations in Australia

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posted on 2022-11-21, 05:32 authored by Susan Christine Barnes

The lack of gender diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been named and evidenced as a problem for decades, despite wellintentioned efforts to address. While there is clear evidence that organisational culture is a contributing factor, research remains largely focused on explorations and descriptions of the reasons why women leave STEM. Recently, academic attention has shifted toward the understudied gender equity programs, which are used by STEM organisations to address gender inequality. The programs are not delivering the expected results, and the complexities of program implementation may be one reason why gender equity programs are failing. Feminist scholars have begun to examine these programs however implementation problems have so far been overlooked, which limits the understanding of why those programs underperform. This study responds to calls from scholars for research to focus on processes and the complexity of gender equity program implementation as a potentially crucial component of sustainable and enduring change. Adopting a pragmatic research paradigm and drawing on feminist, action research, and grounded theory principles, this thesis conducts a case study of a pilot program currently underway at four STEM organisations that anonymises grant applications for access to large-scale scientific instruments. In addition to providing new insights into the complexity of implementing a gender equity measure in STEM organisations in Australia, the study provides two theoretical contributions to feminist organisational studies. Firstly, through recognising that a theory of implementation is required within the gender equity literature. Secondly, in taking the first step towards developing that theory. Finally, the research provides lessons learned from the pilot which can be integrated into future programs and shine a light on the design of gender equity programs targeting long-lasting structural and cultural change in STEM workplaces in Australia. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Literature review -- Chapter 3: Methodology -- Chapter 4: Findings -- Chapter 5: Discussion and conclusion -- References -- Appendix A -- Appendix B -- Appendix C -- Appendix D


A thesis presented to Macquarie University in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree Master of Research (MRes)

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, School of Social Science, Department of Sociology, 2022

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jacqueline Mackaway

Additional Supervisor 1

Alison Pullen


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:






96 pages

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