A Gender Action Toolkit and a raft of family-friendly initiatives have won CAASTRO, the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics, a Gold Pleiades Award for promoting gender equity. The award is given by the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Astronomy (IDEA) Chapter of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) and was presented on 11 July at the ASA’s annual scientific meeting in Canberra, Australia.

Modeled on the UK’s Athena SWAN scheme, the Pleiades Awards were created to recognise Australian astronomy departments and organisations that actively support women to advance in their careers.

“In Australia, women make up a third of astronomy PhD students but only a fifth of professional astronomers, and that number hasn’t changed in a decade,” CAASTRO Director Professor Elaine Sadler (University of Sydney) said. “We want to stop women dropping out of astronomy unnecessarily.”

CAASTRO won a Silver award in 2014, the inaugural year of the scheme. It is now the first institution to win the Gold Award, which recognises a sustained effort over many years.

“This award is a wonderful testament to the work we have put in to make CAASTRO a welcoming, supportive environment for all our staff,” Professor Sadler said.

CAASTRO was formed in 2011 and its founding Director, Professor Bryan Gaensler (now at the Dunlap Institute in Canada) put in place a number of gender-equity initiatives, such as making it possible for all CAASTRO positions to be taken part-time.

CAASTRO’s Gender Action Committee has continued to actively develop tools and processes to support women, such as a Gender Action Toolkit available for use by other organisations.

The committee is chaired by Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University, who is a strong promoter of gender equity in his own institution.

The Pleiades Awards take their name from the Pleiades asterism, which is also known as ‘the seven sisters.’

Helen Sim
PIO, ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO)
+61 419 635 905 (cell)

Prof. Elaine Sadler
Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO)
+61 402 371 083 (cell)

Gender Action Toolkit:

The ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) is a collaboration between The University of Sydney, The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia and Curtin University, the last two participating together as the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). CAASTRO is funded under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence program, with additional funding from the seven participating universities and from the NSW State Government’s Science Leveraging Fund.