Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
– United Nations

At VU, we are committed to achieving gender equality in all that we do.

We strive to afford people the same access, resources, opportunities and successes regardless of gender.

Victoria University is a proud recipient of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation.

5 Gender equality (female, male symbol with =)

Research, engagement & education 2020–21

Research with impact

VU’s research focuses on gender equality relating to women’s health and wellbeing outcomes.

Hui Shi from VU joined Monash University researchers to study the effect of early marriage on maternal health care utilisation in five sub-Saharan countries: Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Chad. Using recent Demographic and Health Surveys data, the study found that compared to women who married at age 17 or older:

  • for a woman married before age 15, her probability of using prenatal services was 17 per cent lower; and
  • before age 16 was 9.6 per cent lower.

VU researchers conducted two studies to look at whether sport club participation by women was increasing.

  • Registrations with 10 State Sporting Associations in Victoria, Australia were used to identify the number of women participating in community-level sport. Findings indicate that women’s participation in sport is gradually increasing with the largest increase for girls aged 4 of 6.6% over the 5 years to 2019.
  • The Ausplay national survey of participation in sports clubs was used by researchers from VU and the Charles Perkins Centre, to establish what gains have been made in the proportion of women in non-player roles over recent years. They confirmed that although women are still underrepresented across the types of non-player roles, there had been a gradual increase of women in these roles and that women are more likely to be managers. The researchers recommend strategies to increase female participation in sporting club roles.

VU research into help-seeking for mental health for Somali-Australian women identified four perceived barriers to accessing mental health services:

  • Influence of faith on views on mental illness.
  • Stigma in relation to mental illness help-seeking.
  • Mistrust due to the cultural disconnect with the Western healthcare system.
  • Denial of mental illness due to community views on mental health.

The Body Confident Mums Challenge, engages with mothers to promote a positive body self image – self-compassion and appreciation of body functionality – using a social learning program in a closed Facebook group. The feedback from the group indicated that their body image concerns were decreasing over the Challenge and they recommended slowing the content pace and time commitment of the Challenge.

Exploring Breast Cancer Survivors’ Experiences and Sense of Self was a study to understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis on people’s self-identity to inform guidelines and support for cancer survivors. The study engaged with breast cancer survivors to identify how they had re-established a positive sense of identity after the cancer threat.

Research focusing on refugee and asylum seeking mothers proposes a new framework to centre carework in the discussion of the everyday security issues. This framework brings forward mothers’ security concerns that are not evident in traditional security literature.

Australia’s Gender Health Tracker report card 2020 highlights differences in gender-based health needs and risks, and highlighted that current policy, funding and service models are failing women, with serious social and economic impacts.

The UNFPA publishes each year a report on the State of the World Population which in 2020 was dedicated to the rights of women. Bruce Rasmussen of VISES provided modelling and analysis of the impact of child marriage and costs of interventions to eliminate child marriage.

The United Nations Population Fund, Avenir Health, John Hopkins University and VISES researchers collaborated on assessing the impact of COVID-19 on family planning and ending gender-based violence.


We collaborate with sporting organisations to promote inclusion and respect for women in sport, and with health organisations to tackle violence against women.

Two national studies – led by Professor Clare Hanlon, Susan Alberti Women in Sport Chair, of the Institute for Health and Sport – seek to address barriers for women’s participation in sport:

A guide for action to encourage women from culturally diverse backgrounds as leaders in sport (PDF, 1 MB) highlights the need for sport organisations to promote cultural diversity and take action by implementing five strategies to attract and retain women from culturally diverse backgrounds as leaders. Professor Hanlon believes this is the first analysis of its kind in Australia, featuring input by women who currently lead in sport or aspire to move into sport to lead, as well as those who have no interest to lead in sport.

Findings of the study on the role that uniforms play in young women’s sport participation is shown in What Girls Want in Sport Uniforms practical actions and infographic (PDF, 627 KB). The guide is designed to assist school and sport sectors develop policies and practices focused on making girls feel comfortable and confident in their uniforms to play sport and be physically active. It expands on the Victorian study that was a collaboration with School Sport Victoria and funded by the Change Our Game, Office for Women in Sport and Recreation.

HealthWest Partnership and Victoria University worked together on Project Momentum: Working Together with Men to engage younger male students and staff in prevention of violence against women. The project created a guide for creating and supporting projects of this kind. The project conducted a number of activities in 2020 for exploring ideas of manhood and the narratives surrounding ‘real men’, including the Enter the Man Box art installation for VU orientation week and workshops on the Man Box Story.

A Level Playing Field: the case for investing in women’s sport is a collaboration by VU, Australian Women in Sport Advisory Group, Male Champions of Change and Price Waterhouse Coopers to advocate for the equality for women in sport participation and employment.

Professor Ramon Spaaij and his research group have been instrumental in changing sport participation to be more inclusive. The Change Makers Project has resulted in a community of practice of more than 50 local sports club representatives implementing inclusion projects to promote gender equity by increasing the number of girls and women participating and more women in club leadership and coaching. The ‘Participation versus performance: managing (dis)ability, gender and cultural diversity in junior sport’ project resulted in a number of institutional changes in 2020 within community sports clubs, local authorities and state sporting associations to be more inclusive of diverse members of society, including recruiting and mentoring women to become part of their committee and governance structures, Professor Spaaij said.

Girls and women are less likely to continue participating in sports where they don’t feel welcome and their achievements are undervalued. This leads to issues of retention, and girls and women losing out on the numerous health and social benefits provided by community sport participation.

A study by Professor Clare Hanlon examined the role that uniforms play in increasing the confidence of girls to participate in sport and physical activity. The study, funded by a $20,000 Change Our Game research grant from the Victorian State Government, Office for Women in Sport and Recreation, in collaboration with S-Trend Sportswear, surveyed more than 300 Victorian girls aged between 12 and 18. The findings indicated that feeling comfortable and not exposed in the uniform was a critical factor to feeling positive about sports participation.

Professor Clare Hanlon was also invited to be a member of the International Women’s Group of Sport, Capability and Knowledge Steering Group.


As well as addressing gender equality in the curriculum, we provide opportunities and support for our students to excel in areas where they are under-represented (women in trades and engineering, and men in nursing, for example).

The minor in Gender Studies provides a critical education in major theories and applications about the place of gender in social perspectives. The minor is offered in the:

Victoria University Business School launched Australia’s first Female Quotient Lounge, as part of a global movement to advance gender equality for women in business. They have become an influential female-led community initiative, activating change at events across industries, universities, and organisations, including the World Economic Forum.

Future Female 2020 was presented by VU and Study Melbourne, to equip international women students with the knowledge and inspiration to bridge the gender gap and to work towards a fairer future.

Lauren Sherf shoots a goal for the the Raiders

Sustainability on campus

Respect Week offers a week of activities to talk about the importance of respect for better relationships and to work against sexual assault and relationship violence.

Programs addressing Goal 5