COVID-19 and gender equality in the eResearch workforce: How to avoid the regressive effects

Dr Jenni Harrison1

1Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, Australia


Achieving gender diversity in the workplace remains a challenge.  The recent Covid-19 pandemic has in some ways reduced the challenges faced by some women, but at the same time has increased some barriers.  The lack of diversity and gender balance at all levels in organisations, including the Board, means that for many technologies driven organisations, gender diversity is neither influencing or guiding decision making.


There have been many reports, including the notable McKinsey study in 2019, highlighting the benefits of gender diversity in the workplace.  Although 2019 detailed female representation at the C-Suite increased by 24%, women are still underrepresented at every level in most technology organisations. Last year (pre-Covid-19) McKinsey also reported an increase in the opportunities to work from home (WFH), supporting working women (and men).  Following the lock-downs associated with pandemic, most organisations quickly moved to some form of remote working, with some organisations continuing to support WFH as the norm.

However, there are also considerable barriers that have resulted from the pandemic, especially in recruitment, that reinforce some traditional exclusive bias and behaviours, which will unfortunately exacerbate the lack of diversity in some organisations.


Bias is often unconscious.  It is only when such behaviours and practices are highlighted that organisations and individuals become aware of their actions and are able to rectify the situation.  This presentation will describe some present behaviours and associated actions in recruitment and other business areas that are non-inclusive and will suggest some alternative directions and WFH etiquette.


Jenni is a passionate leader in technology. A PhD-qualified medicinal chemist and MSc qualified in digital education, Jenni migrated from Scotland where she was delivering national multi-institution digital projects and initiatives advancing healthcare, to become Head of Data at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.  Jenni, now Director of Strategic Project and Engagement, has forged many effective research collaborations, has secured significant research funding and has developed strategic partnerships with many international organisations.  Jenni is an inclusive, strategic thinker who leads on STEM initiatives.  An AICD graduate, she uses her skills to increase diversity. Jenni is a lifelong learner and published author.

eResearch Services and Capabilities

Nicholas May1, Ghulam Murtaza2, Thomas Shafee3

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
2Intersect Australia
3La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

The organic growth of the eResearch community has resulted in skill sets being packaged up under a range of different role titles and position descriptions.

Over the last two years, the Federation for the Advancement of Victorian eResearch (FAVeR) has been working towards some understanding of the eResearch roles space, leading to the establishment of a project called ‘Advancing the professionalisation of our eResearch workforce’. This has included the surveying of individuals’ role titles and the modelling of aggregate services and capabilities. More recently, we have been extending this surveying to our member universities to achieve a better description of how they organise these services within various units.

In the first half of the session, the working group will present the service descriptions to the community and provide a draft outline of the capabilities associated with each service. In addition, the group will introduce the eResearch ‘value proposition’ and ‘value chain’, from which the service descriptions were initially derived. The remainder of the session will be structured to enable feedback from the community to the working group on the following:

1) The scope of the services. i.e. Is there anything missing or not required?

2) The categorisation of the services. i.e. Are these services distinct?

3) Early thoughts on the capabilities.

This feedback will inform the next phase of the project during which the working group will define the capabilities and their related skill sets.


Nicholas May is an accredited software engineer with over thirty years of Information Technology experience, across a variety of roles, languages, systems and domains. The last thirteen years have been spent in the research domain, partly in a software architecture research group, but mostly helping researchers with software and data projects. More recently he has been actively engaged in the RSE community, as co-chair of the RSE Worldwide session at the 2019 UK RSE conference, and as secretary of the RSE Association of Australian and New Zealand.

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