Science and Technology

Mentoring women in science to rise to the top

The University of Technology Sydney is among twelve top health research organisations to join an innovative mentoring program aimed at supporting up-and-coming female researchers to reach leadership positions in the sector.

The mentoring program delivered by Franklin Women, a professional organisation dedicated to retaining women in the health and medical research field, was launched at UTS on 22 June 2017 with an event bringing the 54 mentees and mentors together for the first time.

“Our mentoring program is the first of its kind in the sector connecting female researchers with male and female leaders from diverse organisations who will embark on an important mentoring relationship,” said Franklin Women founder, Dr Melina Georgousakis.

“The fact that so many health research organisations have come on board for the inaugural year of our mentoring program demonstrates their commitment to addressing the gender imbalance in the sector and the expected impact the program will have.”

Some of Australia’s most influential health researchers will be participating in the program as mentors helping female researchers navigate their career pathway and the challenges they face.

2017’s mentors include Distinguished Professor Caroline Homer from the UTS Faculty of Health who was recently awarded an Order of Australia medal for her service to medicine.

She is joined at UTS by Professor Alaina Ammit from the Faculty of Science. Professor Ammit is Professor of Respiratory Pharmacology in the School of Life Sciences and Director of the Woolcock Emphysema Research Centre.

Two UTS early career researchers are participating as mentees, Dr Jane Frawley and Dr Nikki Percival from the Faculty of Health. Both have been awarded National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career fellowships.

Dr Frawley, a public health researcher, said, “I understand the complexities of navigating the academic world whilst having a young family, and in the future, would like to mentor and support other women to pursue their goals in academia.”

Health services researcher Dr Percival also aims to take her experience forward.

“As well as benefiting from the program as a mentee, I will learn more about mentoring and further develop my skills to be able to mentor other women, including as a potential Franklin Women’s Mentor,” she said.

“UTS is excited to be involved in such an important initiative,” said UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Glenn Wightwick.

“We hope it will bring opportunities for all of the institutions involved to learn from each other’s experiences and help to change the broader landscape, improving opportunities for all women in health and medical research.

“As part of our Research Equity Initiative, UTS has set a high benchmark for increasing representation of women in senior positions. Our participation in the Athena SWAN pilot offers the opportunity to further examine our practices and cultures, and better inform our strategies to advance opportunities for women in research,” Professor Wightwick said.

Franklin Women has partnered with Serendis Leadership consultants to develop a program that includes an exhaustive matching process to achieve the best fit between the mentee and their mentor; a structured program to ensure the relationship gains momentum; and the use of mentoring tools to support skill development that participants can take forward in their career.

Besides UTS, the participating research organisations are: the Garvan Institute, the Kolling Institute, the Centenary Institute, the University of Sydney, the Heart Research Institute, the Ingham Institute, the University of NSW, Macquarie University, the Children’s Cancer Institute, the Children’s Medical Research Institute and The George Institute.

Source: UTS

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