Former CSIRO scientist Judy Eastham. Photo: Supplied
Australian women scientists face generations of exclusion from top research jobs at the CSIRO "boys' club", according to a veteran female scientist.
It would take 130 years for women to achieve gender equality at the nation's peak scientific organisation if present trends continue, according to Judy Eastham, who spent three decades at CSIRO.
Writing in The Canberra Times, today, the former scientist says that CSIRO is 40 per cent female but only 24 per cent of research scientists are women.
A woman at CSIRO is more likely to be working in the more poorly-paid, traditionally female roles such as administrative support, which is 76 per cent female, according to Dr Eastham, who is now a consultant and researcher investigating gender equity in the Australian workplace.
In comments that are hotly contested by the organisation, Dr Eastham says that CSIRO's first female chief executive Megan Clark has failed to break open its "old boys' club".
But CSIRO rejected many of Dr Eastham's assertions and told The Canberra Times that Dr Clark's tenure in the top job had seen much progress on the equity and diversity fronts.
Dr Eastham said CSIRO's improvements in gender equity had only been improving at a "glacial rate".
"Over the five years since Dr Clark took the helm, women's representation in the role has increased by only one per cent," the researcher wrote.
"At this glacial rate of progress, the number of women research scientists in the organisation won't reach parity with men for another 130 years.
"Several generations of female scientists will continue to be disadvantaged."
Dr Eastham said that the organisation's recent restructure was a lost opportunity to get women into leadership roles.
"Several talented and impressive women who formerly occupied equivalent leadership roles, such as chiefs and flagship directors were 'overlooked'," she said.
CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan rejected the charge that the organisation was an old boys' club and pointed to Dr Clark's work on CSIRO's diversity and inclusion steering committee as well as its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender network.
"Dr Clark, and the senior leadership in CSIRO is deeply committed to increasing the diversity of people across the organisation," Mr Morgan said.
"While we have been working on this for some time, with some notable changes, we know that there is plenty of work to do, and there are many aspects of CSIRO's strategy and culture where we are committed to making improvements.
"In this regard, CSIRO is not on its own as a scientific institution, this is an issue around the world."