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.

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