Associate Professor Lucy Marshall has been appointed Associate Dean for Equity and Diversity for the Faculty of Engineering at UNSW Sydney, which is the first position of its kind created by any UNSW faculty.

A/ Professor Marshall, who was until recently a Future Fellow in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will work closely with Professor Eileen Baldry who holds the corresponding role for UNSW. Together they will develop strategic plans and evaluate practices and policies to provide an inclusive, equitable and respectable environment for all staff and students across the Faculty.

A/Professor Marshall will also chair the Faculty’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“This role is really important for the Faculty – and it’s well aligned with the university’s 2025 strategy, which is excellent,” A/Professor Marshall says.

“My focus will be on creating equal opportunity for our community at all levels – this includes both staff and students,” she added.

Gender equity is high on A/Professor Marshall’s agenda. To fulfil the target of 40 per cent of senior positions in the Faculty to be held by women by 2025, attitudes and perceptions need to be changed.

“I think there’s a perception that the number of women who come through engineering education or the engineering industry is quite small and that this is the reason why the proportion is small at academic levels as well,” she says.

“But that’s not correct, if we have a look at our PhD students, we have 40 per cent women, for example in my School, so transforming the culture in the university is something that I’d really like to tackle.”

The new role will enable A/Professor Marshall to implement a program that she says will not only promote more diverse representation, but also improve the quality of research and education.

“Put really simply, with diversity we achieve our best results,” A/Professor Marshall says.

“When we have diverse viewpoints and groups that come together to solve a problem or address a particular issue, we ensure that we come up with the most effective solutions, the most efficient solutions and the most innovative ones.

“I think with this aim of developing a workplace at UNSW that is more diverse, that is more inclusive, we want to make sure that we are identifying the best talent that’s out there and make sure that we’re retaining that talent.”

As an active member of Women in Science and Technology communities, A/Professor Marshall is an expert in equity issues. She was also awarded the prestigious MODSIM Mid-Career Research Excellence prize in 2017.

But it’s not just gender equity that will be part of the A/Professor’s focus.

“Socioeconomic diversity is something that I think is particularly important. We’ve also looked at cultural diversity and we have some plans to make sure that our PhD population is representative of the full cultural diversity,” Marshall says.

After completing her PhD at UNSW in 2006, A/Professor Marshall took up a teaching and research position in the US at Montana State University. There she was able to observe firsthand how diversity programs work outside Australia.

“I think in the US they're probably a little bit more progressive than we are, but I think Australia's catching up,” she says, noting that when she was doing her undergraduate course at UNSW in the early 2000s there were no women in senior positions in the School of Civil Engineering.

“That being said, when it comes to things like flexible work, and family-friendly policies, Australia and UNSW are far ahead,” Marshall says.

This reason, along with the fact that UNSW Engineering was so well resourced, made the decision to return to UNSW in 2013 to take up an Australian Research Council Fellowship an easy one to make.

“I just felt the pull to come back to Australia, I loved the research environment that we have here at UNSW and I think that we have all the resources we need for success,” Marshall says.

“The US was great, it was very entrepreneurial, though the school that I was in didn't have the same sorts of resources that we have here.”

UNSW Dean of Engineering, Professor Mark Hoffman says he is delighted to have A/Professor Marshall as the Faculty of Engineering's Associate Dean of Equity and Diversity.

“I am incredibly proud of Lucy being appointed UNSW's first Associate Dean of Equity and Diversity, as I am of UNSW Engineering” he says.

“Equity and diversity of staff and students are pillars of UNSW’s motto ‘Innovation in Action’.

“I am confident Lucy’s passion for gender equity and diversity will bring about positive changes to the Faculty in support of UNSW’s 2025 strategy, and I know her professionalism, determination and sensitivity will serve her well in the role.”