Educating future leaders

Dr Dee Gibbon Dr Dee Gibbon

UQ's Deputy Director for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Dee Gibbon OAM CSC

UQ's Deputy Director for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Dee Gibbon OAM CSC

UQ takes its social responsibility as an educator of future leaders very seriously. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a critical component of modelling the workplace culture that our graduates will seek to emulate when building the organisations of the future.      

In a global marketplace defined by fierce competition for high-impact academics and talented professionals, we would like UQ’s domestic and international reputation as an employer of choice to equal its current standing as a ‘global research powerhouse’ and provider of exceptional educational opportunities. 

The clear focus on diversity and inclusion, as featured in the new Strategic Plan, will position UQ as an international employer of choice, enabling us to attract, grow, support and retain talented staff in this increasingly competitive global environment.    

My current role was newly created in late 2016, to harness and enhance the University’s valiant, but arguably disconnected, efforts towards becoming a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The work at UQ is complex and challenging, but I have ‘earned my diversity and inclusion stripes’ in far more testing contexts. 

My pre-UQ life was, quite literally, on the battlefield, as NATO’s Senior Gender Adviser for the Resolute Support mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. This military role entailed advising very senior members of the Afghan government on how to increase women’s meaningful representation in Afghan security institutions.   

Senior Afghan leader commitment, cohesive collaboration and international community support were critical to the work of our team. Through a united effort, the Afghan National Army was able to almost double the number of women in its ranks within two years. This was not an easy feat within a deeply challenging security situation, along with myriad cultural impediments to women’s full and equal participation in society generally.  

In addition to collaboration and Afghan leadership, our success was predicated on developing culturally sensitive intervention strategies that were founded on rigorous research; developed by those most impacted by the interventions (Nihil de nobis, sine nobi, or ‘nothing about us, without us’); and were measurable and based on sound operational imperatives and practical need.   

I had learnt the criticality of those principles through an equally challenging role: my doctoral research and subsequent work to increase women’s representation in the male-dominated occupation of military pilot. This entailed examining the experiences of women in this non-traditional occupation and building whole-of-career strategies to enable women’s increased representation, support and success.  

Once again this work was highly successful. There are currently more women in the Air Force pilot training pathway than there were qualified women pilots when my research started, and their overall representation, post-training, has more than doubled since my research began.  

These admittedly extreme examples show that change is possible, even in the most testing of circumstances. Some might argue that shifting the demography in academia will be just as difficult, due to the historical, traditional and systemic barriers that seem entrenched in university culture. I don’t disagree, but willingness to critically examine and dismantle the known barriers at UQ is wonderfully refreshing.  

The strategic commitment is certainly there; there is a clear business imperative, and there is active participation in D&I across all areas of the organisation. In my experience, these are the critical foundations for success. Adequate resourcing helps too. 

Our team delivers tangible and measurable D&I outcomes across a broad range of portfolios, which encompass First Peoples, disability inclusion, the LGBTIQA+ community, gender, cultural and linguistic inclusion, ages and life-stages, and intersectionality. We have a significant number of projects underway this year, including managing UQ’s participation in the SAGE Athena SWAN pilot, developing our new Indigenous Graduate program, and delivering our enhanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Trainee Pathway program.  

We can’t do this work in isolation. I invite all staff to find a way to contribute to building a diverse and even more capable UQ. 

Connect with Dr Gibbon or help students from all backgrounds reach their potential by supporting  life-changing scholarships and bursaries.

Two female indigenous students at an ATSIS InspireU Science Camp Two female indigenous students at an ATSIS InspireU Science Camp

Two female indigenous students at an ATSIS InspireU Science Camp

Two female indigenous students at an ATSIS InspireU Science Camp

About Dr Dee Gibbon

Dr Deanne (Dee) Gibbon CSC OAM is Associate Director of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion at The University of Queensland. She holds a PhD from the University of NSW and her most recent role, before joining UQ, was as NATO’s Senior Gender Adviser to the Resolute Support Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan.

She has previously served as the Head of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SEMPRO) and was Project Director for the ADF’s Review into the Treatment of Women.

Dr Gibbon was a founding member of the Australian Chief of Defence Force’s Gender Equity Advisory Board (GEAB), and was the Air Force’s inaugural Director of Workforce Diversity and Inclusion. Her efforts to progress diversity and cultural reform outcomes in Defence resulted in her winning the 2013 diversity category of the prestigious ‘100 Women of Influence’ awards and being awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC)in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

In 2017, she was awarded the Nancy Bird Walton trophy for the most significant contribution to aviation by an Australasian woman. And in 2018, the US Secretary of Defense awarded her the Meritorious Service Medal for her work to increase women’s representation in the Afghan National Army and Police Force. She was awarded an OAM in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday honours list.