Research that considers how institutions and processes are gendered

The Gender and Governance research program will undertake research that considers how institutions and processes are gendered. It is dedicated to the study of the institutions and processes that examine the political participation of women in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. It covers diverse areas of research with several current projects underway.

Political participation and political engagement are gendered processes.  From women’s representation in parliament and political parties; to women’s participation in peace processes; and women’s participation in transitional justice, the program focuses on the conditions that promote gender equitable political representation and policy. Institutional, social, and economic barriers to women’s participation in politics continue in both developing and developed economies.  Gender still determines who sits in parliament, who fights in conflict, and who decides the terms of justice.

Program Leaders:  Elizabeth van Acker and Sara Davies

External grants

Program participants have received external research funding


In February 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming clear, a small group of academics came together from public health, international relations, public policy and development economics to analyse and address the gendered effects of COVID-19 and government responses to the outbreak. After publishing a highly influential commentary on COVID-19 in The Lancet, the team expanded to become an international gender and COVID-19 working group, which now has more than 300 expert members.

In this episode of The Gender Card, presenter Nance Haxton speaks to three esteemed members of this working group: Professor Sara Davies, Dr Julia Smith,  and Dr Clare Wenham about how this research is informing global public health response to the pandemic.

Listen to the latest episode with The Gender Card below

Listen to the podcast here


Congratulations to Professor Sara Davies and Dr Huiyun Feng who are members of a team that received a Rapid Research Fund Grant as part of a Canadian Health Research Council grant on COVID-19. Health sciences researchers at the Simon Fraser University will co-lead an international team, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. and others from the U.K., Hong Kong and Australia.  The research aims to identify gender-related effects of the outbreak, gaps in preparation and response measures, and provide guidance and recommendations for those crafting policy and public health interventions.  Sara and Huiyun will be leading the China case study in the project.

Sara and Huiyun have also been part of the project to set up the Gender and Covid-19 Resource Website. They joined academics from around the world, providing analysis to identify and document real time gender dynamics of Covid-19 and gaps in preparedness and response.

Find out more here


Centre member Dr Liz van Acker recently collaborated with QUT's Pathways to Politics for Women program on 6 March. In Australia, women are under-represented across all levels of government, business, civil society and positions of influence. Despite their proven ability as leaders and their right to participate equally in democratic governance, women still face many obstacles to participating in political life. The Pathways to Politics for Women program is a nonpartisan initiative which aims to increase female participation in all levels of governments. The women gain skills about how to run for public office and thrive as political leaders.

The program featured guest presenters from across the political spectrum including politicians (both sitting and retired), pollsters, public speaking professionals, campaign strategists, advisors, public policy experts, and leading figures in Australian political and public life. Liz presented two sessions: the first on policy making and another one covering a case study and class activities with the participants.


Griffith's Gender scholars have formed the Gender Equality Research Network, co-founded by Professors Sara Davies and Susan Harris-Rimmer. They, along with other members of the Network have released a series of podcasts on gender issues.  Imagine for a moment if you will, what the world would look like if all genders were equal. What would that mean for society, for work, and play, and for women’s place in those structures?

We also looking into how gender plays out in sport, women's finances, how academic research can hopefully change the system and bring more justice to victims of gendered violence, and more.

Check out the full series below.

Listen to the podcast series here


Centre members, Sara Davies, Liz van Acker and Caitlin Mollica recently attended a two day Grant Writing Workshop as part of the Gender Equality Research Network program.  Participants were mentored on aspects of grant writing and enjoyed a program of information sessions from Professor Gerry Docherty, Dean Research, Arts, Education and Law Group; Dr Gayle Morris and Daina Garklavs from the Office of Research; Professor Renee Jeffery, Professor Simone Fullagar and Professor Sacha Reid from the Griffith Business School; Professor Susanne Karstedt from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Professor Elena Marchetti from Griffith Law School; and Dr Adele Pavlidis from Griffith Centre for Cultural Research.

Find out more here


HDR candidate and tutor, Elise Stephenson, has written a new article for The Conversation with Griffith Law School expert, Associate Professor Susan Harris Rimmer. Read their article on women in diplomacy and defence below.

Read article here


Congratulations to PhD student Elise Stephenson who was awarded a $125,000 grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to curate and run a public diplomacy program through ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Australia Now is a public diplomacy program of the Australian Government.  The program celebrates Australia's creative excellence, diversity and builds relationships for the future.  This year, Australia Now has a focus on youth, aiming to engage youth audiences and cement long-standing ties between Australia and surrounding member states of the ASEAN.

Launched in July, Australia Now will be hosting the Youth Entrepreneurs and Leaders Speaker Series.  It is hoped that this collaborative series will foster meaningful connections and promote networks between young entrepreneurs and leaders who are directing change and innovation in their communities.

Find out more about Elise's work in this space here.

Find out more here


An initiative by Sara Davies (GBS) and Sue Harris-Rimmer (AEL), the Gender Equality Research Network was established to enhance and promote gender equality research across the Behavioural  Sciences and Humanities.  The network was launched on 22 February 2019. Guest speakers Professor Joy Damousi from University of Melbourne, Professors Andrew O'Neil and Andrea Bishop presented highlighted the importance of such an initiative and in particular the area of gender equality in future research outputs.  The pilot program will support a small group of gender scholars by providing opportunities for professional development in career and research areas.

Find out more here


According to the paper recently published in a special edition of The Lancet, feminist leadership is about much more than addressing gender quotas. Gender quotes do not go far enough when it comes to tackling Global Health inequalities. It includes both formal and informal cultural change, which is needed within institutions across global health governance.

The study highlights that gender bias is prevalent when it comes to global health since women predominantly occupy unpaid roles as caregivers and health workers.

Associate Professor Sara Davies has co-authored the article Sophie Harman, Rashida Manjoo, Maria Tanyag and Clare Wenham.

Read the article here


Elise Stephenson recently co-authored an article with Jane Alver (lawyer, activist and gender equality advocate).  Their article was published by Kings College London on the subject of Is diversity disrupting diplomacy – and are we doing enough to ensure it is? More diverse leadership is needed in international affairs.

Click here to read the article


Dr Liz van Acker contributed to Griffith Library's Lightning Talk event at the Gold Coast campus in December.  Liz was a panelist at the event  'All Being Equal: Stories Beyond Yes or No' along with Benjamin Law, Erin Gough, Dr Heather Faulkner, and Dr Michael Carden. Griffith Review's Dr Ashley Hay moderated.

Watch the event here


Dr Liz van Acker presented a conference paper on feminist institutionalism and women’s participation in politics at the International Conference on Gender Studies conference in Venice.

The paper examined the formal and informal rules which have influenced women’s participation in Queensland politics.


In October 2018, Program member Dr Caitlin Mollica and Queensland University of Technology's Dr Helen Berents gave evidence at the touring Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into lowering the voting age.  They spoke in support of the voice of youth in the democratic process.

Following their submission to the Standing Committee they contributed to Griffith University's Policy Innovation Hub, Machinery of Government blog.  Read their piece ‘Listened to, but not heard’ - Lowering the Voting Age and Increasing Voter Participation below.

Read the blog here


Liz van Acker met with Professor Sarah Childs from the Department of Politics at Birbeck University in London in early November.  They had interesting discussions about gender and politics. Liz attended a seminar which examined a report analysing women’s engagement with politics in Wales and their interest in running for election.

Liz also attended a book launch hosted by the Department and Professor Childs. Jacqui Smith, a former Labour politician co-edited All the Honourable Ladies: Volume 1: Profiles of Women MPs 1918 -1996 and she provided fascinating insights into the lives and achievements of women in UK politics.


Much has been said this year about being a woman in politics, with little of it being positive or inspiring to those thinking about taking on this essential public service role.

Dr Liz van Acker and her Central Queensland University Australia colleague, Associate Professor Linda Colley, use Queensland as a case study to explore the issues surrounding women's representation in this piece for the Policy Innovation Hub's Machinery of Government blog.

Click here to read the blog

50 / 50 TARGETS

Elizabeth van Acker and Linda Colley are researching the current barriers to reaching a 50/50 target in political parties and the election process.

Liz is also beginning a new project that explores feminist values that confronts many challenges in gender scholarship and practice.  Ranging from anti-feminism resistance and populism to changing institutions and campaigns such as #metoo, politics is unstable but also offers opportunities for supporting change. This builds on her book Marriage and Values in Public Policy: Conflicts in the UK, the US and Australia.


How do peace processes advance women’s rights? What are the optimal conditions that enable women’s participation in peace processes? In partnership with Monash University Gender, Peace and Security, Sara Davies is a co-Chief Investigator on ARC Linkage Project, Towards Inclusive Peace, Sara Davies is conducting in-depth fieldwork with local stakeholders in Myanmar and the Philippines to investigate the economic, social, and political conditions that enable or constrain women’s participation in peace processes.

Through the partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Linkage project has the opportunity to utilise in-depth case studies to support and engage consular delivery of assistance in aid programs in fragile and conflict affected states, as well as inform targeted aid delivery that supports women’s voice, agency and leadership.


In a recent article with International Feminist Journal of Politics, Ceridwen Spark and CGPP Fellow, Jack Corbett, study existing explanations for why women do not get elected to parliament in Melanesia. Drawing on an extensive qualitative dataset, including forty in-depth interviews with emerging women leaders from three Melanesian countries, they find that many women are pessimistic about the way electoral politics are conducted. Echoing longstanding critiques of political practice, the women leaders see their political activity as being conducted in a parallel public sphere, in contexts in which they consider themselves better able to pursue programmatic reform.


Women and youth disproportionately bear the burden of conflict, yet historically they have been marginalised by post conflict practices. Caitlin Mollica’s work examines youth’s engagement with transitional justice and human rights mechanisms. Her recent publication examines the diverse identities occupied by Solomon Islander youth during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She also explores the unique ways that girls and young women experience conflict and instability and the inherently gendered nature of international peacebuilding programs. She highlights young female peacebuilders’ leadership capacity and contributions to peace through grassroots and civil society movements. Currently, Caitlin is developing a project that interrogates the intersections of the Women Peace and Security and Youth Peace and Security agendas, and explores the synergies and tensions between them.


Exploring the ways intersectional feminism can be combined with creative design and technology to achieve outcomes for gender equality across government, business and society. Specific projects include working with the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security to create a platform for influencing the Australian Federal Government regarding United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, particularly in light of the development of Australia's second National Action Plan.

Other projects include working with the National Council of Women of Australia, Working Women's Centres across NT, SA and QLD, Violence Prevention Network, and Country Women's Association - using technology to increase gender equality & women's empowerment projects nationally and internationally.

Elise also has a personal blog that can be accessed here.

Read more here

Want to know more?

Get in touch with the Centre for Governance and Public Policy