Melbourne Uni hiring for female-only jobs to rectify gender imbalance in maths

Melbourne University. Source: AAP

The University of Melbourne is seeking to increase the number of women among its ranks by opening up three positions to female applicants only.

In a staff of 21 full professors at the University of Melbourne School of Mathematics and Statistics, only two of them are women.

This is the sort of imbalance the school is trying to rectify by opening up three positions to female-only candidates.

Head of the school, Professor Aleks Owczarek, told SBS News across the mathematics and science sector, the female academics made up, on average, just nine per cent of academic staff.

"It is reflective of a bigger problem across the sector," he said.

"Only about 28 per cent of our undergraduate and postgraduate students studying mathematics and science are female."

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Act allows for acts of discrimination like this if the ultimate goal is to establish greater equality more broadly.

Professor Owczarek said many women were turned off, or actively discouraged from, studying mathematics and science in high school which meant they did not go on to study the subjects at university.

"We do know some discrimination [against women] is going on throughout the process of studying maths and science in general," he said.

He said he hoped, by hiring more female academics, it would encourage and inspire young women and girls to consider a career and further studying in mathematics and science.

A more equal workforce was required to achieve research and academic outcomes within the sector, Professor Owczarek said.

"We can't do that with one arm tied behind our backs, only training half of the population in maths and sciences," he said.

"We have had positions where almost all the applicants are male, depending on the area of the position."

The roles have been open for a week and Professor Owczarek said there had already been about 20 applications, which was a good number for so early in the recruitment process.

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