Inspiring women: “an everyone issue”

9 December
Full house at the inaugural inspiring women event with 100s participating in interactive polls
Full house at the inaugural inspiring women event with 100s participating in interactive polls

A 200-strong crowd of women, men – and even a baby - from science, industry and government gathered in Melbourne this week as part of the veski inspiring women program and agreed supporting women in, and removing barriers to their career progression was an issue for everyone; not just women.

Read the tweets by @veskiorg & other attendees from the #veski session

The inaugural veski inspiring women professional development & networking event, held on Monday, 8 December 2014, is part of a quarterly series of events planned for 2015.

The call for men and women to support the inspiring women program was highlighted with one of four panelists Professor Bob Williamson AO saying “gender equity isn’t a women’s issue; it’s an everyone issue.”

veski chief executive officer, Ms Julia L Page, added to the call by encouraging all attendees to bring a male guest to the next event, and asking them to help promote the event across industry and other sectors.

“If every attendee brings a male friend or colleague to the next event, this will ensure more organisations across Victoria are in the picture,” Ms Page said. 

The event included a keynote video presentation from Professor Sharon Bell, Deputy Vice Chancellor from the Charles Darwin University, in which she outlined her findings from her research project into “women in the science research workforce”.

Professor Bell described the difference between the way men and women approach their careers as being similar to the difference between marathon runners and sprinters.

“Many professions, including the sciences, are geared to the runners rather than the sprinters”, Bell said.

“The challenge that now faces the sector is whether we are ready to move from strategies that accommodate women who want to sprint like their male colleagues to rather moving to strategies that recognise there is value in diversity and that the marathon runner, the person who is running a different race with similar goals but running at a different pace can be accommodated equally successfully”.

An interactive poll at the event revealed more than 80 per cent agreed that a female career in scientific research was like a marathon rather than a sprint.

The panel presentations and discussions provided some insights from the personal experiences of the speakers with key themes including the need to make strategic career choices, the power of a supportive network, and the importance of self promotion.

Two emerging leaders, Dr Natalie Hannan and Dr Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino, who work together at the Mercy Hospital and the University of Melbourne, shared their personal experiences as women working in scientific fields.

Dr Hannan talked about the challenges she faced when detailing her career interruption and the bias that exists, and Dr Kaitu’u-Lino described the importance of mentors and a ‘support team’.

Representing an alternative career path, which is a key part of the veski inspiring women program, Dr Jane Fisher who is the Immunology Medical Manager, UCB Australia, talked about the need to drive your own career, be committed and have a thick skin.

In addition to a session of inspiring speakers, there was a surprise for two attendees who received an inspiring coaching session from veski collaborator insium, which provides the lucky recipients with an opportunity to work on their career plans and goals.

At the end of the event, an interstate attendee who was in town from Adelaide said she had been to an event like this thirty years ago and was expecting a couple of dozen women and was delighted to see hundreds of women in the room, no longer afraid to talk about the issues.

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