Celebrating the winners of the 2022 Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This week Monash University is celebrating Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with in-person events for the first time in two years. As part of this, the Faculty of IT is spotlighting the winners of this year’s Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with their achievements

Last year the Faculty launched the Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, recognising individuals and teams who have demonstrated impact across one or more of the following categories:

  • Education: Developing teaching practices, curricula or other initiatives that foster inclusion for a diverse range of students.
  • Community: Engaging with the wider community to foster inclusion for underrepresented, disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
  • Environment or culture: Building and supporting equity, diversity and inclusion across Monash.
  • Research: Positively impacting equity, diversity and inclusion through research.

‘Our faculty is going above and beyond to deliver incredible initiatives, research and education that advance equity, diversity and inclusion in the sector and community. The EDI Committee established these awards to celebrate and share this work with others,’ said Associate Dean (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Professor Yolande Strengers.

Introducing the 12 winners of the 2022 Dean’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion:

Education

Professor Graham Farr and Dr Rebecca Robinson

Professor Farr and Dr Robinson take a proactive approach to creating an equitable, engaging and supportive learning environment for their students in FIT2014 Theory of Computation by developing and implementing innovations such as:

  • Post-lecture interviews with key figures in the field during the COVID-19 lockdowns to better engage with students, in which 32% of the interview subjects were women.
  • Embedding notes on the history of computer science throughout the unit that highlight key figures from underrepresented groups who were instrumental to the development of the field.
  • A mentoring program for new tutors to help them build confidence, with Rebecca herself mentoring women tutors.

‘Computer science is not just the science of computing, it's also a human endeavour. Inclusion of history in our teaching materials is a great way to show students the diverse range of people who have contributed to the field.’ – Professor Farr

In many ways I think education is the great equaliser – it empowers people by helping them to develop their critical thinking skills, regardless of their background. This makes it all the more important for us to ensure that it is equally accessible to everyone.’ – Dr Robinson


Environment and culture

Dr Fariha Jaigirdar

Throughout her PhD, and now as a sessional lecturer and post-doctoral researcher (research assistant), Ms Jaigirdar’s exemplary efforts as a woman working in cybersecurity has helped recruit and retain women students from international communities.

She actively contributes to growing a culture of respect and inclusion in the faculty. For example, she was the 2020 and 2021 Monash FIT Student Representative and Monash FIT HDR Women Network Representative where she built a platform that generates a voice for HDR women in the faculty. She has since created various workshops and initiatives to grow the network and has worked as a mentor for other HDR students.

She has also received many accolades including the prestigious 2021 IEEE Women in Services Computing Scholarship, a ZDNET interview on her research in explainable AI, a Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME) grant to work with underserved Rohingya refugees health record management in Bangladesh, a feature on the faculty’s webpage as an inspirational women in IT, and much more.

‘Breaking barriers – including cultural, language and behaviour – is essential for individual and collective growth because working in an inclusive environment fosters confidence to pursue greater things

Having an EDI focus in my work is important to me because I want to be a part of a society where people feel respected and thrive on supportive energy so we can collectively build a better world for future generations.’ – Ms Jaigirdar

Dr Mor Vered

Dr Vered is the initiator and organiser of the annual Women’s Promotion Peer-to-Peer Support Networking event at Monash University. She created this recurring opportunity to build peer-to-peer networks for women of all levels within the STEMM faculties of IT, Engineering, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Science and Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

The event focuses on women’s preparation and application for promotion. It provides a structured opportunity for mentees to seek guidance from mentors about the application process and personal advice pertaining to their situation.

‘Creating and managing the Women’s Promotion Peer-to-Peer Support Networking event is one of the most important pieces of work I will do as it directly impacts the lives of the women participating in the program.

My advice is if something is important to you, make your own opportunities to contribute. It may start off small, but if there is a need, it will grow and have a positive impact.’ – Dr Vered


Community

Dr Delvin Varghese, Dr Margherita Angelucci, Dr Meriem Tebourbi, Dr Tom Bartindale and Professor Patrick Olivier

Working closely with the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), the research team created the Action Grants project which supports first-time applicants to the $3.7M Multicultural Communications Outreach Program (MCOP). The MCOP helps multicultural communities to produce and distribute content promoting COVID-19 vaccinations and COVIDSafe behaviour.

The DFFH oversees 80 grant programs a year with a reach of 4000 organisations. Since its launch, Action Grants has received further funding from the DFFH to run another round and a further $50K from Fairer Victoria to scale the initiative across three more grant programs from July to December 2022.

The next Action Grants supported DFFH grant is The Pride Events and Festivals Fund which provides grants of up to $10,000 for LGBTIQA+ events in Victoria.

‘We believe that applied research should primarily be about the direct benefits it brings to the community. Too often communities are researched (i.e. research is done to them) but they get little direct benefit out of it beyond general acknowledgements. We are not saying that we have cracked the code, but building in community-driven values such as “reciprocity” and “raising appropriate expectations” helps us to be more mindful in designing for the good of the community and not just a lower standard of “do no harm”.  

Impact means different things to different people, but at the end of the day we need to let the communities we work with define what impact is. Otherwise we risk having a definition that benefits us more than the people we want to impact (ironically!). – Dr Delvin Varghese


Research

Dr Tanjila Kanij, Dr Jennifer McIntosh and Professor John Grundy

Conducting a preliminary survey with software developers and hiring managers, the team found that software engineering job advertisements are mostly biased towards male candidates and the existing automated word-based generic de-biasing tools are inadequate in the context of software engineering.

The team developed two new approaches to detect and remove gender bias within software engineering job advertisements a:

  • natural language processing based automated tool that can be used by hiring managers, recruitment companies and other organisations to assess their job ads for gender bias.
  • framework inspired by ‘GenderMag’ that uses an evidence-based approach for detecting gender bias in problem-solving software interfaces. Using this approach, the team have also developed male and female software engineering (SE) personas to help design gender inclusive SE job advertisements.

‘When it comes to EDI, software engineering should be viewed through two perspectives: as software engineers, we need to understand and respect that there will be differences in values, culture and opinions in the end users when developing software; the team of software engineers themselves also should be diverse as that strengthens the development process by offering different perspectives.’ – Dr Tanjila Kanji

‘Research has a responsibility to pursue positive social outcomes in part because it is usually funded by public or philanthropic money. By definition this means research outcomes should aim to increase inclusivity and equity.’ – Dr Jennifer McIntosh

‘I've always been a 'practical' researcher who wants to see tangible outcomes from research, not just academic papers or the like. Software engineering is a career that should be encouraging and accepting of everyone. We need to continue to work together to make it so. Remember users of your software – and research – are often very different to you.’ – Professor John Grundy