Gender equality and the medical research institute workforce

Gender equality and the medical research institute workforce

In 2019, the total workforce of AAMRI’s 57 members combined was 19,763 staff and students (16,622 FTE).

Medical research institutes (MRIs) bring together researchers, corporate leadership and professional support staff into a diverse and exciting workplace committed to improving human health (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – The MRI workforce in 2019.


The medical research institute workforce is more than 60% women, in the research workforce and corporate and professional support services (Figure 2).

AAMRI conducted a study of gender balance in the MRI workforce for the first time in 2018 [1]. This analysis showed that while the MRI workforce was more than 60% women, about 60% of senior positions were held by men.

Figure 2 – Gender balance in the MRI workforce in 2019 [2].


Gender inequality has been recognised widely throughout the STEM workforce where women are often underrepresented in senior positions.

In 2019, 59% of senior positions were held by men, despite a female dominated workforce and only one quarter of medical research institute Directors are women (Figure 3). However, representation of women in some senior positions is improving. Five of the eight AAMRI Board Directors are women, about half of MRI executive staff and half of senior researchers are women.

Figure 3 – Gender breakdown at MRIs in 2019, by role and seniority [2].


While the MRI sector has been systematically addressing gender inequality through initiatives such as Athena SWAN accreditation (SAGE [3]), each institute is at a different place on their diversity and inclusion journey.

The AAMRI Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is working to better retain, promote and attract women in medical research.

They are working to advocate for change and provide guidance on best practice for medical research institutes, building on the work of other experts working towards equality in STEM.

Read more about the Committee’s activities, purpose and Terms of Reference here.



FTE = full time equivalents; STEM = science, technology, engineering and mathematics

[1] AAMRI (2018) Australia’s Medical Research Institute Snapshot.

[2] AAMRI (2020) Australian medical research institutes – The AAMRI Report 2020.

[3] Science in Australia Gender Equity (2020), What SAGE does.