AUSTRALIA has three times as many women vice chancellors as it did a year ago.
Up until 1987, every vice chancellor in Australia was a male - and had been since the University of Sydney was founded in 1852. Then Di Yerbury was appointed to head Macquarie University in Sydney. Three years later, she was joined by Fay Gale when she became vice chancellor of the University of Western Australia.
Seven years on, Australia has six female vice chancellors out of 36 heads of public universities. When Professor Yerbury was appointed to Macquarie, she was outnumbered by her male counterparts 18:1.
In a few months, four women have been appointed to vice chancellorships, with Ingrid Moses the latest to be nominated - to the University of New England.
Earlier, Mary O'Kane became the first woman to head the University of Adelaide, Denise Bradley took over at the University of South Australia and Millicent Poole won the vice chancellorship at Edith Cowan University, Perth.
The vice chancellors' committee itself is now headed by a woman. Professor Gale was elected AVCC president last year.
Despite the fact that university councils advertise worldwide for their chief executives, few choose foreigners, those outside higher education circles, or women.
Until recently selection committees have been conservative, seeming to prefer an Australian to a foreigner, someone they know rather than a stranger, an academic to an outsider, and a man to a woman.
"University appointment committees seem to disagree but there is no difference in intelligence based on gender," Professor Gale said. "And until we have 50 per cent female and male representation among academics, we will not have the highest quality staff."