Theme Science

Written by Ann Moyal, Independent Scholar

Women working in science have played an enduring part in Australian history but their trajectory has been a challenging and a chequered one. From early times in the 19th century, there was a remarkably rich female participation in the popular culture of botanical and natural science. In a tradition embedded in 18th-century Western culture, upper and middle-class women were educated in botany and sketching as soon as the breakfast table was cleared. Transported as 'cultural baggage' to Australia, these feminine skills were nourished in a new continent where new flora and fauna delighted and challenged the eye and brush and where the illustrations of women served to communicate and enhance knowledge of Australian species both at home and, at times, overseas. Yet, despite their contributions to the popular diffusion of science, these 'invisible participants' were seen essentially as amanuenses in the patriarchy of science.

By the mid to late 1850s, however, as gold discoveries enriched colonial government coffers, the new universities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were opening their doors to science. Significantly, the first person to be admitted to the science degree by examination in Australia was a woman, Edith Dornwell, at Adelaide University in 1883. Educated in physics and physiology at Adelaide's Advanced School for Girls, she became the sole science student in the university's first science year, graduating with first class honours in physiology and physics in 1885. While her forward route lay in teaching at her former school, and marriage claimed her, she had left an indelible mark (Mackinnon, 1997, 81). The first woman science graduate at Sydney University, Fanny Hunt, emerged in 1889 and Leonora Little at the University of Melbourne in 1893. Aware of their pioneering role, the early women students were high achievers. At Sydney, 115 women had taken Bachelor of Science degrees before 1920, winning prizes in nearly every year, and it was in the sciences, rather than in the arts degree, that a new profession was born.

At first such development promised social and professional change. The science women's prospects, however, were clearly constrained from the start. The Council of the University of Sydney famously declined to accept the professor of biology's proposal in 1897 to appoint Marion Horton as a demonstrator in biology 'because she was a woman, and too pretty' (Hooker, 39). Like Horton, Dornwell and others of their ability and kind, women graduates were stereotyped as ill-equipped to participate in the patriarchy of science. Many moved into teaching in the leading girls' private schools where the quality of early graduate science teachers was high. Yet a charismatic and supportive professor could shape a trend. From 1893, Professor Edgeworth David drew large numbers of female students into geology from both arts and science at the University of Sydney, twenty-three completing geology majors for the Bachelor of Science degree by 1914. He also employed three women as junior demonstrators from 1911 to 1918 and gave impetus to a field in which Australian women would excel.

The University of Melbourne offered a three-year science studies course that included physics, chemistry, mineralogy, botany, geology and physiology, with scope for specialising in the final year. Between 1893 and 1920, sixty-two women took degrees in science, the largest proportion of Australian women in any single course of study (Kelly). Unlike their medical sisters, they experienced no opposition to their attending classes. But a key obstacle for many turned on the problem of acquiring initial science tuition at school (although Melbourne's University High School, Methodist Ladies' College and South Melbourne College and Adelaide's Advanced School for Girls became critical educational entry points). The study of science held a special fascination. Essentially it was 'research intensive', opening exciting new fields of knowledge. Early women graduates at Melbourne were inspired to take up various government scholarships and named research grants, which resulted in a remarkable twenty-seven masters degrees and six doctorates in science being granted across those twenty-seven years. By 1920, 'the second sex' had amassed over forty scholarships and many exhibitions and made up 30 per cent of the total science degrees. 'They laboured hard for their honours and scholarships and their extra degrees', writes historian Farley Kelly, 'and picked up whatever teaching work was around as well'.

A similar picture emerged in Sydney. From 1912, research opportunities came to talented women through the introduction of science research scholarships and the MacLeay Fellowships of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, which women began to capture in zoology, geology and organic chemistry. Sixteen took masters degrees and three doctorates in science. Between 1922 and 1940, still others-five from Sydney University and one from the University of Western Australia-won the prestigious 1851 Exhibition Science Research Scholarship (first made available to Australians in 1891), which took one scholar each year for research experience and PhD candidature at Oxford or Cambridge. Marie Bentivoglio, a graduate in crystallography, was the first woman to collect the award in 1922; Rita Harradence won it in organic chemistry in 1938 but, highly talented, as Lady Cornforth, she turned her independent research to assist her Nobel Prize-winning husband, Sir John Cornforth.

Women's science was organic, women had 'a feeling for the organism', and graduates congregated in the life sciences. Year after year, the top biology student at Melbourne was a woman, while some thirteen of the women graduates of that early period specialised in organic chemistry. There was no lack of talent. Yet, while the male establishment might allow women into science classes, it was early apparent that female 'stereotypes' and concepts of 'feminine work' became entrenched, and those who moved into academia with their higher degrees as junior demonstrators remained low on the professional totem pole, poorly paid and consigned to the lower status tasks of heavy teaching workloads, laboratory assistance and caring for libraries and specimen collections, jobs disdained by career-oriented male students who saw them as a 'feminine domain'. As a result, highly competent women were, for the most part, unable to build up the traditional research profiles of their male colleagues, who, eschewing smaller research grants, moved from graduation into postgraduate opportunities in overseas laboratories and returned to Australia as lecturers en route to professional careers. Nonetheless, the women found fascination in their scientific work, enjoying their networks and independence and their shared sense of collegiality. Shaping across the decades, such networks formed something of 'a culture within a culture' where women in science took leadership roles in establishing women's colleges, women's clubs, the women's graduates' associations (later the Australian Federation of University Women and now the Australian Federation of Graduate Women) and providing scholarships for women students. Contributing to life on campus, their research and working lives in biology, zoology, chemistry, geology and palaeontology and their teaching underscored the varied directions in which Australian science was developing.

There were some exceptional participants. Dr Georgina Sweet, who gained her B.Sc. in zoology at Melbourne University in 1896 and a doctorate in science in 1904, became a lecturer in the School of Biology in 1908 and subsequently in the new Veterinary School. A leading parasitologist for her work on the problems of nodules in cattle and a conspicuous leader, she became associate professor of zoology at Melbourne from 1920 to 1924, was later a member of the Academic Board, a prominent supporter of women's rights and welfare, a member of many scientific societies and the first woman elected to the University Council (MacCallum, ADB). Her brilliant student, Ethel McLennan, with a doctorate in 1921, also became successively a lecturer, senior lecturer and associate professor researching plant mycology in Melbourne University's Department of Botany and was a supporter of women students but, to her chagrin, was passed over for the vacant chair of botany in 1937 in favour of a male senior demonstrator from Britain. The position of these two women leaders would mark the upper limits for women scientists in Australian universities until the early 1980s.

Yet science-trained women were moving out to penetrate new arenas of employment as the 20th century advanced. Thirty-seven of Melbourne's first crop of graduates became teachers, providing a critical mass for advancing teaching in biology, chemistry, natural philosophy and physiology at elite girls' schools and high schools, while, during the 1920s, the acceptance of women's work in science as a regular profession grew as certain scientific positions, including laboratory assistants and hospital bacteriologists, were advertised for women exclusively. Melbourne captured a unique position in the young discipline of microbiology. The 1920s also offered opportunities for widening professional participation for trained women outside academia as systematic botanists, biologists, biochemists, plant pathologists, ecologists, bryologists, agricultural scientists, conservationists, herbarium assistants, illustrators and museum curators.

Others, drawn from Adelaide and Melbourne, cut their research teeth as research assistants in the emerging institutions of science at Waite Institute for Agricultural Research in Adelaide, Melbourne's Baker Institute, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research where, under Macfarlane Burnet, they participated in far-reaching viral and immunological research. Their names-Phyllis Rountree, Jean Tolhurst, Nancy Hayward, Dora Lush-have resonance. They would move after further qualifications, the Diploma of Bacteriology self-secured in London, to senior positions in teaching hospitals where they made distinguished contributions to research on blood culture, phage tying and vaccines. The brilliant Dora Lush was a casualty. Acknowledged as a major contributor to Sir Macfarlane Burnet's work on bacteriophages and viruses, and co-author of many of his most important papers from 1934-39, she accidentally pricked her finger inoculating a virulent serum into mice in 1943, and died within a week.

Research assistantships and demonstratorships gave important life to science; men scientists, however, frequently absorbed unacknowledged their assistants' work. Some professors were actively hostile to women on the staff, lecturers went un-elevated for many years and, by the 1980s, a professional crisis that followed a consistent international trend was manifesting itself for academic women in science. As one American researcher summed up in her 1982 study, 'university faculties were far more ready to educate women in science, than to employ them, and were most adamantly opposed to advancing any but the most extraordinary' (Rossiter, xv).

On the government front, the record of Australia's major science agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was far from encouraging to talented women in science, although surprises could occur. Between 1929 and 1939, CSIR employed 125 women, 114 registered in 'non-scientific' women's positions with 17 placed ambiguously in both 'non-scientific' and 'scientific' categories Their salaries were 62 per cent of what their male colleagues received, the Council declined to adopt the Commonwealth government's wartime provision in 1942 that women in the public service receive equal pay, and it was mandatory for all women to resign on marriage. Nonetheless three women from diverse backgrounds-Helen Newton Turner, Betty Allen and Mildred Barnard-became innovative leaders during the 1930s as the first agricultural statisticians, all having taken self-funded leave to attend Galton Laboratory at London University to study under the father of agricultural statistics, Roland Fisher. Appointed leader of the new CSIRO Division of Animal Genetics Breeding Section in 1956 (CSIR became the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in 1948), Newton Turner's outstanding work in sheep genetics and improved fleece revolutionised the Australian wool industry (Moyal, 1993).

World War II also released the talents of the brilliant Ruby Payne Scott, whose work from 1944 on the physics and mathematics of radio astronomy emissions from the sun conducted at CSIR's pioneering Radio Physics Division established basic concepts in radio astronomy and lifted her to the top of this crucial new field. Concealing her wartime marriage, Payne Scott retired when pregnant in 1951 and went into teaching. By war's end, eight women were employed in professional classifications at CSIR compared with thirty-seven males, while the number of women had increased significantly in the lower assistant classifications. It was, however, in the postwar years that women seized the opportunity to seek out strategic new areas of scientific research where their skills could be used to advantage. Rachel Makinson, a physics graduate from Cambridge who emigrated to Australia in 1939 with her physicist husband and waited out the war years as a casual research assistant at Sydney University, joined the CSIRO Division of Textile Physics where her skills were in high demand. Makinson became an international authority on felting, friction and shrink proofing in wool and CSIRO's first woman chief research scientist. In similar vein, Nancy Millis, following her career as a wartime technician at CSIR, gathered a PhD from Bristol University and struck out to become a key figure at the University of Melbourne, a pioneer in fermentation research in Australia and in industrial and applied microbiology and waste-water treatment. She was appointed to a personal chair in microbiology at Melbourne, was highly prominent across a spectrum of state advisory matters and, from 1996 to 2002, was chancellor of La Trobe University.

Across the century, geology stood out among the professions in which women exercised leadership. There, a cluster of women with PhDs from Oxbridge were prominent contributors and leaders: Ida Brown(e), Florence Quodling and Dorothy Crosby as lecturers and curators at Sydney University; Isabel Cookson, palaeontologist at the National Museum of Victoria, specialising in fossil pollen grains and spores in coal; Irene Crespin appointed Commonwealth palaeontologist in 1936; and Nell Ludbrook, a mining micro-palaeontologist, as senior palaeontologist in the South Australian Department of Mines. In 1965, Beryl Nashar took up the foundation position in geology at the new University of Newcastle, running an otherwise all-male department, while Queensland University's pre-eminent Professor Dorothy Hill secured an international research profile for her work on fossil corals, built up Australian palaeontology to world standards, and was the first woman elected in 1956 as a fellow of the all-male Australian Academy of Science, as well as its acting president (1970) and the first Australian woman elected to the Royal Society (1965).

At the University of Tasmania, Dr Winifred Curtis attained a special leadership role. A prize-winning graduate in botany, chemistry, physics and mathematics from the University of London who moved to Tasmania in 1939, she rose from part-time demonstrator in biology to assistant lecturer and then reader in botany in 1946, the highest post then held by a woman at the university. In an arena where only British works on botany and biology were available, her crucial editions of Biology for Australian Students (1948-1962) and The Student's Flora of Tasmania (1956, 1967 & 1975) taught several generations of women in botany and biology. Widely honoured in academia and society, she was made Hobart Citizen of the Year in 1997.

These impressive exemplars across discipline fields were underwriting major public achievements for women in science. Yet, at a more general level, the profession continued to present confronting barriers to a considerable majority of its female participants. While the same number of women and men began science degrees (by the late 1970s, women at times representing more than half), several factors were emerging to explain why the percentage of women declined the higher up the professional ranks they climbed. Data indicated that they encountered greater teaching burdens, faced disadvantageous peer review of unpublished papers and grant applications, published fewer papers from their PhD research, were excluded from informal information networks, lacked mentoring, secured lower rates of promotion, and were largely confined below the career trajectories commonly open to men. Science women gathered in posts at tutor, senior tutor and lecturer level where their very excellence as teachers often left them outside consideration for research posts. In a research-intensive field, the rewards played out hierarchically in a male-structured world.

As new universities sprang up across the states from the mid-1960s, there was a period of expansion in science. More women were appointed on the new campuses at somewhat higher professional levels; more women moved into physics; more research posts and greater flexibility for scientific women were introduced at CSIRO; trained women scientists entered work in government and industry, while sub-specialities and new discipline journals emerged. The Australian Research Grants Committee, established in 1965, added to the research picture by introducing opportunities for aspiring women scientists in 'mid-career'. But the data also attested that women needed to be about 'two and a half times' as productive as men to gain the same research grant support (Lane, 9) and, while more rungs were added to the scientific ladder, it remained difficult for women to establish forward patterns to climb.

Examining Women, Academic Appointments and Australian Universities on behalf of the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations (FAUSA) early in the 1980s, sociologist Belinda Probert found that only 16.1 per cent of university appointments were held by women in 1983 and these were mostly in lower status positions. In 1981, a mere 9.6 per cent of tenured university academics were women. A Senate Committee report of 1982 confirmed that, despite the rising presence of women studying science in universities, 'there is a very high attrition rate among women between the completion of an honours bachelor degree and a higher degree', while promotion from tutor to lecturer was seen as a particular obstacle in women's academic careers (cited in Probert). The greatest hurdles arose during child-bearing and child-caring years, although women with a supportive partner or mother or extended family, or married to a scientific husband, clearly benefitted from easier career progression. One core fact, however, remained clear from Probert's study. Women (even without children) 'tended to underestimate their abilities during the transitions from secondary to tertiary education, from undergraduate to postgraduate studies, and throughout their professional lives', a condition that signified an absence of self-confidence and self-esteem that prejudiced their active career advancement. The once widely accepted concept of a linear progression, with an ever-receding 'glass ceiling' operating against women's advancement, was being replaced by the notion of the 'revolving door' and, notably, by the syndrome of the 'leaking pipeline', which reflected the labyrinthine cluster of challenges that many scientific women faced in their complex career journeys.

How had it happened? There were countervailing tendencies. WISENET (Women in Science Enquiry Network) established in 1984 and organised through state and regional branches, with its lively journal disseminating a flow of information that both celebrated individual scientific women's achievements and linked women working towards a more participatory system of science, flourished as a major sounding board. But gender research was also shifting from its former preoccupation with high scientific achievers to a focus on the repetitive pattern of disadvantage and discrimination currently experienced by scientific women both in Australia and around the world.

The Commonwealth government moved in 1993 to foster a paradigm shift in which society would better recognise and value the ways in which women could contribute to the range of disciplines in science, engineering and technology (SET), and to offer a holistic policy approach to the issues besetting women in science. The Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Advisory Group pinpointed a pattern of negative behaviour exhibited by men and boys, which they defined as 'more evident by its impact and effect than any description or analysis'. It was, they found, accepted as normal by the dominant male culture that men and boys would consistently emphasise solidarity and shared identity, values and interests in such a way that 'it excludes, alienates, marginalises and isolates the girls and women who are, by definition, outsiders' (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, Prologue). As one young woman ruefully attested: 'It was as though I was on the outside looking in. They could see me but I was not really there'. As men rarely acknowledged or actually described doing anything to bring about this outcome, the Senate's multi-disciplinary advisory group of scientists and social scientists concluded, 'we are left with a mysterious and disembodied negative force'. They called it 'Gender Harassment' in SET, and their extensive recommendations-dedicated funding for re-entry scholarships for women wishing to return to training, bridging courses, developing appropriate mentoring for application in government science agencies, ensuring equal representation of men and women on selection committees, advice to the Australian Research Council to include an examination of the numbers of women researchers in disciplines and sub-disciplines-became the benchmark for later enquiries.

Yet, against this negative backdrop, a regiment of outstanding women continued to carve out innovative careers and leadership roles: Jan Anderson in photosynthesis at CSIRO; Adrienne Clarke, professor in molecular biology at the University of Melbourne, one-time lieutenant-governor of Victoria (1997-2000) and the first woman chairman of CSIRO from 1991 to 1995; Professor Jennifer Graves at the Australian National University, director of the ARC Centre for Kangaroo Genomics and named 'Thinker of the Year' in 2007; climate scientist Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, a one-time director of environment at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, a former principal investigator in NASA's Earth Observing System Project, and until 2007 director of the UN World Climate Research Programme; Professor Suzanne Cory, first woman director of the Walter and Eliza Hall of Medical Research where she has been engaged on the Human Genome Project for new diagnoses, vaccine strategies and novel therapeutics; Alessandra Pucci, pioneer in Australia's biotechnology industry and founder of the country's first biotechnology company; the renowned mathematician, Professor Cheryl Praeger at the University of Western Australia, with landmark work in the development of mathematical theory; and Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, professor of chemical engineering and industrial chemistry at the University of New South Wales and inventor of the revolutionary vanadium redox battery, to name a few who were conspicuous high flyers in science. All these leaders published widely, won prestigious academic and national awards, acted as strong mentors for women, and held key roles as advisers, board, council and committee members across a range of professional and national affairs. All expressed an awareness of the need to work sixty to seventy hours a week, to be competitive, to foster networks, and to remain highly confident in their research field.

Women were also figuring as candidates in prestigious grant schemes such as the ARC Discovery and Linkage grants, the 2001 ARC Federation Scheme, and ARC Future Fellows Scheme set up to attract and retain the best and brightest mid-career scientists; in these they reached comparable success rates with male applicants of 29 per cent. Yet again, however, the women tended to be clustered in the lowest salary band. At CSIRO, 2007 data revealed that there were now some 1,727 research scientists of whom 21 per cent were women, and more flexible arrangements for women scientific staff including child-minding facilities were in place, but of the organisation's 194 research managers, only 8 per cent were women and there were only 2 women among the 16 members of the executive. Fewer than 10 per cent at the top salary levels were women.

Election to the scientific learned academies also confirmed a significant patriarchal domination of the norms, ethos and rewards of science and a guarded acquiescence by members in its legitimacy. Founded in 1954 with its telling motto, 'We are whom we elect', the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) elected its first women fellow, Professor Dorothy Hill, as early as 1956, but thirteen years elapsed before mathematician Hanna Neumann from the Australian National University was admitted in 1969, followed in 1970 by the distinguished Melbourne physiologist, Mollie Holman. Then came a long gap until the election in 1985 of palynologist Elizabeth Truswell, a fossil pollen authority and chief research scientist at the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Thereafter, the election of women by the AAS was characterised by an occasional leap and gaps, with eight women elected across the 1990s and some twenty-four ushered into the fellowship in the 21st century. . Yet, out of a total fellowship of 692 over the academy's near sixty-year history, only 36 women have been elected, a representation of 5.5 per cent. The academy itself sets its current female representation at 7 per cent. At the younger Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, founded in 1976, 6 per cent of the fellows are women yielding a fellowship of 45 women in a total fellowship of 788. During the past decade, the AAS has implemented a range of approaches in an to attempt to redress the gender discrepancy, including the need for the nomination process to consider the real contribution of women rather than ranking them on established male indices such as the delivery of a keynote address overseas, often impossible for women candidates.

The early years of this new century, however, have witnessed some memorable leadership achievements by women in Australian society generally and these have been accompanied by a growth in the achievements and recognition of women in science. Not only have we experienced the first woman prime minister and the first woman governor-general, we have seen the appointment of a corpus of high-profile scientific women to significant national posts. Professor Mary O'Kane, an international authority on automatic speech recognition and vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1997 to 2001, was appointed chief scientist and engineer to the government of New South Wales in 2008. Dr Megan Clark, a graduate in geochemistry from Queens University, Canada, and a former mine geologist at BHP Billiton, has won extended appointment as the first woman chief executive of Australia's premier scientific research organisation, CSIRO; American-trained Professor Penny Sackett, director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University from 2002 to 2007, became Commonwealth chief scientist in 2008, the first woman to hold the post, while in 2010 Professor Suzanne Cory was elected the first women president of the Australian Academy of Science. In the same period, Dr Cathy Foley, chief of the CSIRO Division of Materials Science and Engineering, and renowned medical scientist, Professor Fiona Stanley, have been individually appointed members of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.

These women leaders believe that the increasing presence of women entering science and holding senior positions will have a decisive impact on and thus change the general culture of science. Yet statistics continue to tell a different and more tempered story. The most recent major government-supported report produced in 2009 by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), published coincidentally as molecular biologist Professor Elizabeth Blackburn was proclaimed Australia's first woman Nobel Laureate, found that 'women were seriously under-represented in some specific disciplines of science, engineering and technology and were not well represented at the most senior levels of all disciplines' (FASTS, 8). It also noted that there was 'a persistent horizontal and vertical segregation of women academics and researchers that inhibited career development and was a key contributing factor that impacts on Australia's research and innovation'. Hence, although acknowledging a battery of suggested strategies communicated to Australia's major science agencies and institutions in order to create a more 'hospitable' environment for women in science, (The ARC (Australian Research Council) and the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) have agreed to change how they assess research publications in the grant applications of those with interrupted careers, allowing them to choose any five-year period of an applicant's career rather than the last five). The FASTS report was unequivocal in its conclusion that 'without depth in seniority in these sectors, this profile of leadership, arguably based on individual achievement is fragile' (Bell, 441). Overall, despite improvements in women's participation at undergraduate and graduate levels to 2009, the data revealed only a small overall increase in women's participation in the science workforce, with the most significant growth registered in the traditional feminine areas of science. The FASTS report thus observed that the underlying issues remained fundamentally 'unaddressed' (43).

Such findings have serious cultural, economic and social consequences for Australia and have been reflected, despite efforts on the part of the Institute of Engineers, in a decline in both enrolment and employment of women in engineering and information science, a slippage seen as 'critical to the social advancement of the nation'. Women are turning away from highly male-channelled science, while 'mathematics anxiety' among girls is contributing to Australia's descent in 2013 from tenth to nineteenth on the international scale, where we are now seriously outdistanced by our Asian neighbours (OECD Report, 2013).

In sum, it would appear that the story of women in science in Australia, and internationally (Bias and Barriers), is a distinctive one with unique features. In a research-intensive field where knowledge and technologies are undergoing rapid change, career breaks present particular difficulties. Women drop out at many points along the way as the challenges leading upwards to the 'glass ceiling' mount. Questions arise. Can science change? Is there a prospect for equity and parity in science? Will a confluence of adopted strategies in time transform the culture of science itself? Problems beset the field. Yet: 'Bringing invisible practices into visibility', writes Hilary Rose, 'is part of that long process of changing the knowledge itself' (114).

The norms of science, however, remain linked with power. Male scientists continue to rationalise their long-established privileges and sense of entitlement unaware, for the most part, that their unconscious bias serves to validate the discriminatory organisational structures and beliefs of science. Recruiting in their own image, they both restrict diversity and limit the possibility of a level playing field and, ultimately, they also put constraints on the national good (2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership).

Yet, despite challenges, a veritable army of scientific women, both salient leaders and engaged contributors, has been dispersed across Australia and is enriching the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. A roster of their participation across the last decade of the 20th century records their diversity and provenance. Here they stand: molecular biologist, marine scientist, invertebrate palaeontologist, aeroscience engineer, physicist, astrophysicist, animal geneticist, astronomer, food technologist, taxidermist, mycologist, chemical engineer, plant geneticist, electrical engineer, antarctic administrator, mathematician, pharmacologist, soil scientist, parasitologist, marine ecologist, botanist, plant ecophysiologist, environmentalist, physiologists, biotechnologist, geneticist, zoologist, science communicator, clinical pharmacologist, mechanical engineer, horticulturalist, reproductive biologist, geochemist, biochemist, geologist, ethnobiologist, immunologist, and, rising in their numbers, environmentalists (WISENET Journal, 1990, Index). Let us honour them.

Published Resources

Australian Women's Register Entries


  • Bhathal, Ragbir, Profiles: Australian Women Scientists, National Library of Australia (NLA), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1999. Details
  • Burns, Dick, Pathfinders in Tasmanian Botany: An Honour Roll of People Connected through Naming Tasmanian Plants, Tasmanian Arboretum, Devonport, Tasmania, 2012. Details
  • Clode, Danielle, Continent of Curiosities: A Journey through Australian Natural History, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 2006. Details
  • Cockburn, Cynthia, In the Way of Women: Men's Resistance to Sex Equality in Organizations, Macmillan, London, England, 1991. Details
  • Davis, Richard P., Open to Talent: The Centenary History of the University of Tasmania, 1890 - 1990, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, 1990. Details
  • Hooker, Claire, Irresistible Forces: Australian Women in Science, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2004. Details
  • Lim, Robert, The Spirit of Knowledge: A Social History of the University of Adelaide, North Terrace Campus, Also titled: Social history of the University of Adelaide, North Terrace campus , Editors: Jellet, Celia; Winter Max; and Winter Jenny, University of Adelaide Press, Adelaide, South Australia, 2011. Details
  • Mackinnon, Alison, The New Women: Adelaide's Early Women Graduates, Wakefield Press, Netley, South Australia, 1986. Details
  • MacKinnon, Alison, Love and Freedom: Professional Women and the Reshaping of Personal Life, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1997. Details
  • Rose, Hilary, Love, Power and Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Transformation of the Sciences, Cambridge Polity Press, Cambridge, England, 1994. Details
  • Rossiter, Margaret, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, United States of America, 1982. Details

Book Sections

  • Alverz, Amaya Jane, 'Invisible Workers and Invisible Barriers: Women in the CSIRO in the 1930s and 1940s', in Farley, Kelly (ed.), On the edge of discovery: Australian Women in Science, Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Victoria, 1993, pp. 77 - 103. Details
  • Carey, Jane, '"What's a Nice Girl like you Doing with a Nobel Prize?" Elizabeth Blackburn, "Australia's" First Woman Nobel Laureate and Women's Scientific Leadership', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 271-289. Details
  • Harris, Kirsty, 'Fannie Eleanor Williams: Bacteriologist and Serologist', in Francis, Rosemary; Grimshaw, Patricia; and Standish, Ann (eds), Seizing the Initiative: Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2012, pp. 145-155. Details
  • Moyal, Ann, 'Chapter 6', in A Bright & Savage Land: Scientists in Colonial Australia, Collins, Sydney, New South Wales, 1986. Details
  • Wajcman, Judy, 'The Masculine Mystique: A Feminist Analysis of Science and Technology', in Probert, Belinda and Wilson, Bruce (eds), Pink Collar Blues: Work, Gender and Technology, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1993, pp. 20 - 40. Details

Edited Books

  • Banks, M. R; Smith, S.J.; Orchard, A.E.; and Kantvilas, G. (eds), Aspects of Tasmanian botany : a tribute to Winifred Curtis, Royal Society of Tasmania, Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, 1991. Details
  • Fenner, Frank (ed.), History of microbiology in Australia, Brolga Press for Australian Society for Microbiology, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1990. Details
  • Gregory, Jenny with Chetkovich, Jean (ed.), Seeking wisdom : a centenary history of the University of Western Australia, University of Western Australia (UWA) Publishing, Crawley, Western Australia, 2013. Details
  • Kelly, Farley (ed.), On the edge of discovery : Australian Women in Science, Text Publishing, East Melbourne, Victoria, 1993. Details
  • Moyal, Ann (ed.), Portraits in Science, National Library of Australia (NLA), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1994. Details
  • Probert, Belinda and Wilson, Bruce W. (eds), Pink Collar Blues: Work, Gender and Technology, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1993. Details

Journal Articles

  • Ashmore, S. E. ; Harvey, L. A.; and Runciman, C., 'Scientific Assistants: Contribution and Gender Issues', Search, vol. 23, no. 8, 1992, pp. 239 - 241. Details
  • Bell, Sharon, 'Women in Science: Lessons from Australia', International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, vol. 2, no. 3, 2010, pp. 437 - 452. Details
  • Glanville, Jennifer L; Anderson, Matthew; and Paxton, Pamela, 'What's so special about STEM? [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] A Comparison of Women's Retention in STEM and Professional Occupations', Social Force, vol. 92, no. 2, December, pp. 545 - 562. Details
  • Lane, Nancy J., 'Why So Few Women in SET?', WISENET Journal, vol. 52, November, pp. 7 - 9. Details
  • Moyal, Ann, 'Invisible Participant: Women in Science in Australia, 1830-1950', Prometheus, vol. 11, no. 2, December, pp. 175 - 187. Details
  • WISENET, 'Annual Report', WISENET Journal, vol. 52, November. Details



  • Dever, Maryanne; Morrison, Zoë; Dalton Barbara; and Tayton, Sarah, When Research Works for Women: Project Report, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, April 2006. Details
  • National Academies: Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, National Academies Press, Washington, United States of America, 2007. Details
  • Probert, Belinda, Women, Academic Appointments and Australian Universities, Federation of Australian University Staff Associations (FAUSA): Affirmative Action Committee, Federation of Australian University Staff Associations (FAUSA), Melbourne, Victoria, 1984. Details

Online Resources