AGCC Diversity in Geosciences Lunch Panellist Profile


Panel member

Associate Professor Heather Handley


Heather Handley is an Associate Professor in Volcanology and Geochemistry and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Macquarie University. She is Co-Founder and President of the Women in Earth and Environmental Science Australasia Network (WOMEESA), launched in March 2018. WOMEESA aims to unite and support women across the Geosciences working in academia, government and industry. Heather uses her passion for volcanoes to raise the aspirations of future generations and underrepresented groups, through participation in the NISEP (National Indigenous Science Education Program) and LEAP (Learning, Education Aspiration, Participation) programs at Macquarie University along with other outreach activities. She frequently writes for The Conversation, and gives radio and television interviews, endeavouring to increase the representation of female scientists in the media.

Heather Twitter: @VMRG_MQ

Heather Web:



WOMEESA Facebook:

Panel discussion points

We asked our panel members to answer some questions about Diversity to provide some insight into their experiences and approaches.

What does Diversity mean to you?

Heather: Diversity is about acknowledging, understanding and valuing the differences in people with respect to their age, gender, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability and other characteristics.

How can/does Diversity improve a workplace and the geoscience community?

Heather: Diversity creates equitable opportunities for everyone and provides an inclusive environment where people can fulfil their potential. Combating discrimination and bias can lead to greater involvement from people, create better working relationships and provide a fair and safe working environment. This has been proven to increase productivity and lead to greater retention of staff.

What is the most important thing happening now in the Diversity space?

Heather: Focusing on the gender aspect of diversity, I think the most important thing happening right now is the Government’s announcement of the Women in STEM Decadal Plan, which will produce a 10-year roadmap for sustained increases in women’s STEM participation and retention from school through to STEM careers. This along with other recent developments such as The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) and Superstars of STEM initiatives make it an exciting time for Women in STEM in Australia.

What are your top tips for promoting and advocating Diversity?


Take a look at your organisation by conducting a diversity, equity and inclusion survey.

Encourage dialogue and develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan.

Encourage people to intervene when they see bias or harassment occurring.

Provide a mentorship program to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advance and to perform to the best of their abilities.

Organise events that encourage greater communication and build a community.

Invite input from quiet and overlooked individuals and interrupt the interrupters.

Promote flexibility.

Create opportunities that will specifically increase diversity (targeted fellowships/scholarships).

Provide support to the many not-for-profit organisations striving to increase diversity in Geosciences. 

Everyone needs to be listening in order to make effective changes within an organisation (not just the 
underrepresented groups).