NTEU notes that the majority of its members are women, reflecting the gender distribution within the higher education sector. However, women working in universities are disproportionately over-represented in lower-level positions, teaching-only roles and in some areas of insecure employment.  Conversely, women are significantly under-represented in ongoing academic roles and in senior level positions, be these in management, academia and/or research.

Gender inequities, sexual harassment and discrimination against women remain part of the work and societal experience of women, including within higher education and research. NTEU’s record in identifying issues and advocating for women and women’s rights industrially and politically contributes to the Union’s standing and respect in the tertiary education sector and the trade union movement.

NTEU is a member of the ACTU Women’s Committee and engages in broader, community-based women’s events such as International Women’s Day and Equal Pay Day and supports women in education and the union movement more broadly. NTEU supports international solidarity on women’s rights, including reproductive rights, workplace rights and gender equality.  As an active affiliate of Education International (EI), NTEU also participates in the EI Women’s conference and matters related to women in education internationally.

Affirmation of the Women’s Action Committee

The NTEU demonstrates the Union’s commitment to the prioritization of gender equity and support for the development of women as union activists, delegates and leaders through its Women’s Action Committee (WAC). Research across unions has shown that women appreciate unions working for women and on matters of interest for women. As such, the WAC is a critical part of the NTEU’s structure and functions, and serves as a national organising network.

The membership of the Women’s Action Committee (WAC) comprises one academic and one general staff representative from each Division, as well as one academic and one professional Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander staff representative nominated by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Committee. The Committee is chaired by the National President and supported by staff from each section of the National Office. The Committee is governed by its Terms of Reference.

WAC meets twice a year.  WAC considers any matters raised by members, which has included:

  • Identifying, organising and implementing NTEU campaigns and events of interest to the WAC and women members.
  • Contributing feminist critique to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy, industrial and higher education policy and research analysis, education and training, recruitment and campaigns.
  • Monitoring gender equity and progress in the sector and in the NTEU.
  • Monitoring gender related Work, Health and Safety issues (including sexism, sexual harassment and assault, and other psycho social risks), and progress in the sector and in the NTEU.
  • Monitoring the gender implications of the Union’s broader activities and identifying new issues.
  • Participating in women’s issues and activities within the broader trade union movement.

WAC also organises the NTEU’s biennial national women’s conference, coordinates the annual Bluestocking Week and has oversight of the annual women’s magazine Agenda. These events and other WAC activities are opportunities to identify new women activists, provide opportunities for training and education for women delegates and leaders, and strengthen our organising efforts. 

As a national organising network, the WAC supports the identification and development of women delegates and activists at all levels.  The WAC also actively encourages women to take up leadership roles within the Union.  Divisions and Branches are encouraged to work with their WAC representatives in establishing local women’s networks at both Branch and Division levels and to take part in initiatives and activities that will improve the participation of women within the Union, particularly in leadership roles and on governing bodies.


Role of the Divisions in Supporting the Program of WAC

Divisions should:

  • Designate one of the elected Division Officers as having oversight of the Division’s WAC representatives, activities and work; 
  • Facilitate and maintain women’s networks/caucuses at Division level.
  • Ensure the election of the Division representatives to WAC in a timely manner and Determine replacement representatives for WAC members if they are unable to attend scheduled meetings;
  • Support the WAC representatives and the activities of the WAC, including Bluestocking Week, and by ensuring that they are formally included in Divisional staff work allocations and budgets;
  • Facilitate the provision of information coming from the WAC to Division and Branch forums, including relevant publications.
  • Include a WAC report as a regular item on Division Council and Executive agendas;
  • Through the Division representatives, report to WAC on women’s issues discussed at Division and Branch level.


NTEU Women on Governing Bodies and in Union Leadership Roles

NTEU recognises that, relative to the composition of membership, gender imbalance continues to persist on some of the Union’s governing bodies. Under-representation of women in Union governing bodies, including at Branch level, is a significant impediment to recruiting women.

The Union must demonstrate the changes we expect to see in our institutions and lead the way in changing gender inequity in the governance of organisations. 

Branches and Divisions are encouraged to adopt the following actions to encourage more women to participate in the union and to take up leadership roles: 

  • All governing bodies within the Union should aim to achieve at least proportionate representation of women to reflect the national average of members, at all levels.
  • WAC will present an annual national, Division and Branch gender profile report.
  • All levels of NTEU should consciously seek to encourage women to nominate for positions in our governing bodies.
  • Divisions and Branches should:
  • actively encourage women members to attend Division and Branch Committee meetings as observers;
  •  encourage women members to nominate, where any Division or Branch Committee position falls vacant;
  • actively recruit both academic and general staff women to be involved in the membership of union governing bodies;
  • give consideration to women with carer obligations when setting meeting times and places;
  •  actively encourage representation from women members on bargaining teams.

Where NTEU official delegations to conferences (e.g. ACTU and EI) are not at least 50% women that the delegation be adjusted through the inclusion of other elected women office holders.

Enterprise Bargaining – Impact Assessment on Women

NTEU notes that collective bargaining is core business of the Union.  As such, it is vital that EB processes incorporate impact assessments for women (where applicable).  These should initially relate to the national mandatory and recommended claims.  Division and Branch bargaining teams should subsequently assess local NTEU, other unions (where applicable) and management claims.  Particular attention should be given to impacts on women in terms of:

  • recruitment and retention,
  • equitable access to leave entitlements,
  • flexible work options,
  • career progression,
  • superannuation,
  • Conversion and professional development opportunities. 

Where specific issues are found to have a substantive and inequitable impact on women's employment conditions and entitlements, bargaining teams are to make every effort to ensure that these issues are dealt with via the inclusion of clauses in Collective Agreements, and not merely in university policy.