According to the NTEU’s State of the Uni Sector surveys (2019 and 2020), the main issues for women in tertiary education include job security, workloads, access to flexible work, work health and safety, and career progression.

Academic women staff in our 2020 survey were very concerned about the loss of work opportunities coming from increased workloads and other covid impacts, while professional/general and research only women respondents were more concerned about job security. Women in research were particularly pessimistic, with just over 60% saying they felt that it was unlikely they would be able to maintain their employment in the sector over the next three years (compared to around 51% of men).

These fears are not without foundation. While higher education is a feminised industry (58% of all higher education workers are women), COVID related job losses affected more women proportionally than men, with 61% of job losses affecting women (Australia Institute, 2021) and professional/general staff women bearing the brunt of the redundancy rounds.  Casual staff – where there are higher proportions of women – were also targeted early in the pandemic related job losses.

We also know that women report higher incidents of sexual harassment, sexism and gender-based bias/discrimination, with NTEU’s 2018 survey on sexual harassment in the workplace finding that while one in five respondents had personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, with twice as many women (24%) as men (12%) reported personal incidents.