An Australian National University academic says she has been confronted with homophobia and sexism during a 51-week fight for parental leave to care for her and her wife's child.
Climate scientistSophie Lewis last week wrote on Twitter her application for maternity leave had been declined by her funding body, the Australian Research Council, as she was not her child's birth mother.
Dr Lewis said this was despite her wife suffering a traumatic birth that left her unable to hold their baby unassisted for six weeks and in defiance of the couple's decision that Dr Lewis would be their child's primary caregiver.
Writing her experience was one suffered by many non-traditional families, Dr Lewis encouraged employees to look out for leave policies that used non-gendered language and did not specify how a family was created.
"We've been asked why I would want to stay home with my child, why I didn't get pregnant if I wanted to go on maternity leave, and lied about how much leave we are entitled to," Dr Lewis said.
"Over 51 weeks, two organisations have prevaricated and obstructed and argued over my place in my family to avoid paying out [about] three months of salary. Both claim to support women in academia and diversity.
" ... it is not my funding body's decision whether I am a primary caregiver to my child. I am, by law and in practice, her mother, with all the career interruption that entails."
Australian Research Council chief executive Sue Thomas would not comment on Dr Lewis's story but distanced the organisation from her issues in accessing parental leave, noting funding was not awarded to individual researchers but instead directed to universities.
" ... the ARC has no responsibility for how a university (the employer) applies their leave policies to their staff, as employees," Professor Thomas said.
An ANU spokesman also would not comment on Dr Lewis's experiences, but said the university aimed to "provide the best possible support for parents".
"We recently announced the early implementation of improved parental leave entitlements for staff at ANU under the Australian National University Enterprise Agreement 2017-2021," the spokesman said.
"We are constantly reviewing and improving our policies and procedures to make sure they are in line with gender diversity and community standards. We also work closely with research funding bodies to support our staff."
The Australian LGBTI University Guide gives the ANU full marks for policies protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex staff and students from discrimination and harassment.
However, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Star Observer-compiled assessment noted it was unclear whether staff received mandatory training to ensure those policies were enforced.
The university is also a member of LGBTI-workplace inclusion support group Pride in Diversity, which releases an annual Australian Workplace Equality Index. Pride in Diversity would not comment on how the ANU fared in its rankings.
Associate director Mark Latchford said: "While great advances have been made to make workplaces around Australia more inclusive, there is still a long way to go.
"Pride in Diversity continues to work with members in their journey to increase the LGBTI inclusivity of their workplace culture, policies and practice."
ANU queer* officer Matthew Mottola said the institution's Ally Network was trying to push the university to make the index.
"There is definitely a willingness [to do well], but they could just do so much more," he said.