What will it take: equality in leadership by 2030

While gender equality is improving in higher education institutions, professions, government and industry, globally women are still in the minority amongst CEOs, board and executive members of major companies, professors and political leaders.

This pioneering international event was a joint initiative of UNSW Sydney and the PLuS Alliance (Arizona State University, Kings College London and UNSW Sydney) and is a foundational step in our joint work towards gender equity in leadership. It brought together opinion shaping women and men to examine the evidence on the critical factors that limit women’s pathways to senior leadership in their fields, and to develop action plans that articulate the practical actions Government, Universities and Industry must take to close the leadership gender gap.

From the 2nd Oct 2020, over 100 experts from around the world came together digitally over 4 weeks to develop ten action plans, which will be produced into a single resource titled What will it take: equality in leadership by 2030.

What it will take to see more women in leadership by 2030. 


Our goal

Our goal is to establish gender parity, equity and diversity as the norm by 2030. A genuine step change in women’s representation in industry, government and academia. This event was the first step to identify what it will take to accelerate the change and to demand practical action to fast track women’s  leadership pathways by 2030 towards gender parity.

Why now?

The MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have shone a spotlight on the social, reputational and economic costs of ignoring injustice. If we were ever in doubt of the importance of diversity and inclusion, not just to economic prosperity but also to the very fabric of our society, that has been dispelled by these global movements. Countries cannot thrive without the inclusion of all women. We must expand the pathway to see more gender diverse women, more women of colour, more women with disability, and more LGBTIQ women reach senior leadership. It is crucial that they are in the room.

The gendered impact of COVID-19 has wiped out much of the progress that had been made. COVID-19 has changed the way we work globally. We must overcome the barriers and leverage the opportunities that will accelerate the pathways for women getting to the top.

The time is now. We must step up and strengthen the current pathways and forge new ones where needed, to ensure future generations benefit from women in leadership.

What is distinctive about this event?

This was the first time a group of top international universities came together to work with Industry and Government to tackle this global challenge. Together we identified what it will take to dramatically increase the representation of women in leadership in ten key areas of our economies by 2030. 

Each working group will test their recommendations against the guiding principles of intersectionality, sustainability and changing work and work patterns to ensure that the solutions are inclusive and adaptive for future ways of working. 

Who is involved?

The event was hosted by Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity Diversity and Inclusion, UNSW.

During the opening event we heard from former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was interviewed by Professor Rosie Campbell, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

Our presenters at the Final Plenary (which you can watch above) include:

The Arts
Sonia Maddock, Head of Cultural Networks and Communities, UNSW Sydney 

Elena Taylor, Senior Curator, UNSW Sydney


Dr Toni Farmer-Thompson, Deputy Vice President, Educational Outreach & Student Services, Arizona State University and co-author of Constitutional Grit: Using Grit as the Catalyst for Female Equity in the C Suite

Christine Gannon, Founder and CEO of Brightworks Consulting and co-author of Constitutional Grit: Using Grit as the Catalyst for Female Equity in the C Suite

Professor Judy Raper, Dean & CEO at TEDI-London

Professor Eliathamby Ambikairajah, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Enterprise and Professor, UNSW Sydney

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Dr Raji Ambikairajah, UNSW Council Member and Director of UNSW Foundation

Higher Education

Dr Erin Carr-Jordan, Senior Director and Head of Social Impact, Arizona State University  

Professor Miki Kittilson, Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University

Media & Communications

Susan Lisovicz, Donald W. Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism, Arizona State University

Jacquee Petchel, Executive Editor, Carnegie-Knight News21, Professor of Practice, Arizona State University

Medicine & Life Sciences

Professor Claire Sharpe, Professor of Renal Medicine, Kings College London

Policy & Politics

Professor Diana Bowman, Associate Dean for International Engagement & Professor, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University

Kristin Irwin, Associate Vice President of Community & Municipal Relations & Economic Development, Arizona State University


Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director, ARC Green Manufacturing Research Hub & Director for the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, UNSW Sydney


Professor Lemuria Carter, Head of School and Professor of the School of Information Systems and Technology Management, UNSW Sydney

What is next?

With the help of our participants we want to distribute the plan widely and engage key influencers in committing to action. This includes providing the What will it take Action Plan to industry associations, policy advisers and members at the local, state and federal levels of Government, including Ministers and Officers for Women as well as National women’s advocacy organisations across our nations. We will raise awareness through various media, press and promotional activities to ensure the What will it take: equality in leadership by 2030 Action Plan is widely received.

We appreciate the strong support of the executive leadership teams at Arizona State University, Kings College London and UNSW Sydney. President Michael Crow (ASU), President and Principal Ed Byrne (KCL) and President and Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs have already committed to prioritising the Action Plan in line with their commitment to social justice and gender equality.

Stay in touch

If you can help in achieving our goal or would like to stay up to date on what is happening in this space, please register for the event or contact Lily Halliday at lily.halliday@unsw.edu.au