The potential of women's programs to generate institutional change

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Devos, A., McLean, J., and O'Hara, P. 2003 'The potential of women's programs to generate institutional change', 2003 Annual International Conference of the Higher Educational Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA 2003), HERDSA, Christchurch, New Zealand, pp. 143-151.
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In this paper we consider the role of women-only professional development programmes, in the context of the evaluation of the first two years of a women’s research development program at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. WomenResearch 21 (WR21) is a professional development programme designed to enable and encourage women academics at the start of their research careers. Each cycle of the programme runs for twelve months and includes seminars, informal support and networking, a research project, and the opportunity to work with a research adviser. Over forty women from across all faculties of the university participated in the programme in the first two years. The programme also aimed to foster an increased understanding within the university of the issues confronting women researchers. To what extent have we been successful in achieving the programme’s aims? Participant evaluations of the first two years indicate the programme has been very successful in supporting the development of most participants. Our success in regard to the second aim of contributing to institutional change is less clear. The paper concludes with a discussion of the issues involved in shifting the focus of the programme from individual professional development to using it as a vehicle for cultural change.
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