Won't Walk Past

The ‘Won’t Walk Past’ (WWP) initiative recognises that legislation and corporate processes including Athena Swan are not alone sufficient to create cultural change for equality, diversity and inclusion.  These existing legal frameworks and employment conditions address the “big stuff” but fall very short of addressing day-to-day “little things” that can have a huge impact to an individual, team, and organisation.

The aim of the WWP initiative is to provide suggestions of how to respond to the “little things” that if addressed by the community can improve culture, from a grassroots level and beyond. Bringing attention to these occurrences is a way of increasing awareness and can prevent the events from being repeated or can alert the transgressor that type of behaviour is unacceptable.  WWP provides a platform to empower individuals and groups.

Why are we doing this, other than it being the right thing to do?

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture (the Centre) is founded on, and guided by three core values – integrity, inclusivity, and international excellence. This is captured in our Centre Charter, along with an ethics and behaviours inventory statement and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy which the Centre abides by. Members of the Centre, have committed to this Charter and policy.

The WWP initiative plays an important part in putting into action the commitments of the Centre in a real and enduring way. It also helps recognise that not only is the membership of our Centre diverse, but there are power differentials (perceived or actual) and the WWP initiative can provide an avenue to enable difficult conversations.

What are we trying to address?

Each member of the Centre has their own institutional policies and code of conduct they must adhere to, with there being zero tolerance for unlawful acts which include bullying, discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), victimisation and vilification. If you witness this type of misconduct we encourage you to report it via your institution (links below).

We seek to provide a safe environment for events and activities under the Centre that is conducive to supporting our core values. Through this initiative and as norms and expectations change, we want to put a stop to any behaviour that wouldn’t be covered by existing institutional processes but is inappropriate such as to:

  • Exclude - to block someone's access to resources or opportunities, make someone feel unwelcome, based on their identity or affiliation with a particular group.
  • Belittle - to treat someone in a condescending manner or with the assumption of incompetence.
  • Discriminate - to make an unwanted distinction in the treatment of someone based on their identity or affiliation with a particular group or stereotype.
  • Intimidate - to threaten, frighten, humiliate, or intimidate someone with abusive words or actions.
  • Disrespectful - to use words or actions that are unwanted, unwelcome, demeaning, degrading or offensive.

How should I respond to the “little things”?

The goal is always to acknowledge the incident respectfully and de-escalate. Some suggestions for doing this are:

  • To interrupt an inappropriate conversation, or ending a presentation or question period that becomes confrontational, unsafe, or otherwise inappropriate.
  • Mention the Centre’s Code of Conduct and/or WWP aloud, and note that all participants agreed to follow these:
    • “I would like to remind everyone of WWP and the need to address inappropriate behaviour such as [relevant words to describe the incident at hand], and attending this meeting served as an agreement to follow the Centre’s code of conduct.”
  • Calmly but firmly demand that person(s) being inappropriate stop immediately.

If a member continues to transgress with inappropriate behaviour please bring it to the attention of your supervisor.

Examples of specific scenarios

Some role-playing examples in isolation that might not attract such gravity of language as above but which still require action include:

  • ECR speaker presents a fabulous first talk and a member of the audience asks a question starts with: “That is a beautiful outfit you are wearing and it ties in with the pink on your slide. Can you explain what you meant by 'echolocation'?" The session chair responds by saying, “Hey everyone, we can't walk past that – it was a gendered comment, please ignore and go straight to the question.”
  • A bunch of folks agree to go out after the conference dinner to a boozy bar. A member of the team says “I would rather choose a less alcohol focussed venue”. One of the folks says, “That’s OK, you can come next time”. Another team member says, “We can’t walk past that comment, we are on travel for work and we should be inclusive.”
  • A member is very frustrated over something that has just happened and starts swearing to show the gravity of their emotion. Someone else steps in and says, “We can’t walk past that kind of expletive in the workplace, even if it's really frustrating.”

useful resources

  • If This, Then That - this website provides a guide with scenarios and suggested responses on how to respond to people who are being resistant to gender equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Safe Evolution provides information on establishing standards of appropriate behaviours for meetings (from the Evolution Society).
  • This youtube video provides tips on responding to microaggressions.
  • The Say My Name campaign aims to help people understand the importance of saying an unfamiliar name correctly and to recognise that people of any particular identity are not a homogeneous group.
  • The Braving Inventory by Brene Brown (©2018) describes the seven components of trust and how they can help us understand ourselves and others. Braving is an acronym that stands for: boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment and generosity.
  • The Centre for Plant Success’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy includes a number of exemplars of how we can support Inclusivity.
  • Root and Shoot's page on developing a system of accountability at plant conferences identifies ways to make scientific conferences more welcoming and inclusive.
  • Athena Swan – a charter for research organisations that is improving gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines all over the world:
    • Specific focus on disciplines where women are under-represented.
    • Develop standards/expectations for behaviour at conferences, workshops.


We would like to thank the Council of Evolution Societies for providing excellent resources and helpful discussions and insights from the UQ Laureate women, and Dr Colleen MacMillan from CSIRO.