Flexibility key to balancing research career with care

24 June
Victorian Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh and veski chief executive officer Julia Page celebrate the launch of the new inspiring women fellowships
Victorian Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh and veski chief executive officer Julia Page celebrate the launch of the new inspiring women fellowships

More life-saving drugs, game-changing technology, and groundbreaking feats of engineering could be developed by Victorian women with the support of flexible inspiring women fellowships announced this week.

Early to mid-career female researchers experiencing or anticipating difficulties juggling a research career with caring for a family are encouraged to apply for the new inspiring women fellowships, each worth up to $150,000, and aimed at providing opportunities for female leaders to remain competitive in their field of research.

Victoria’s inaugural inspiring women fellowships, which form a flagship activity of veski’s inspiring women program to support, inspire and inform Victorian women in their career progression, are supported by the Office of the Lead Scientist with funding from the Victorian Government to ensure Victoria’s outstanding female leaders continue developing their careers even while taking a career break from active research.

While other programs and initiatives only focus on supporting women upon their return to research, veski chief executive officer Julia Page says Victoria’s inspiring women fellowships are uniquely positioned to support women before, during and following their career break through more flexible arrangements.

“Victoria’s new inspiring women fellowships ensure no discoveries or game-changing research are lost simply because a Victorian woman can’t access flexible funds to employ the support they need or can’t access technology to remain connected with their research,” veski chief executive officer Julia Page said. 

The new inspiring women fellowships address simple challenges facing Victorian women by providing flexible funding and solutions, and ensure Victoria's continued success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors by supporting current and future female leaders. 

Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh says the flexibility of the fellowships is key to enabling women to significantly enhance their research endeavours during a career break by allowing them to fund specific needs such as employing research staff to continue their research, using technology to remain connected and continue publishing their research, and accessing childcare when participation in intrastate and overseas conferences is necessary.

“We need to access the entire talent pool within Victoria to deliver on economic growth, however, there is currently a gap with inspiring women in the research field facing barriers when they take a career break to have children or take on other responsibilities,” Lead Scientist Leonie Walsh said.

“These new fellowships help to bridge that gap by providing funding to support research assistants, childcare, and some of the other needs which will allow these inspiring women to continue their career and reach their full potential in the research sector.” 

Developed with the input of women and men who have been through similar experiences, the fellowships support Victorian women working in STEM planning for, experiencing or returning from a career break as a result of family or carer commitments.

As well as allowing these female leaders to remain competitive in their field, the fellowships will encourage a wider conversation across the state to affect cultural change within research organisations and industry, and enhance the current talent pool.  

The inspiring women fellowships are open until Thursday, 6 Aug 2015 via veski.org.au/inspiring-women-criteria

The fellowships form part of a broader veski inspiring women program to support, inspire and inform. It includes female industry internships, available for talented higher degree students to engage directly with Victorian SMEs, funded by the Victorian Government. Small to medium sized organisations in the manufacturing and technology sectors are encouraged to participate in the industry internships and host a female honours or masters student in STEM to help solve problems facing their organisation.

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