My brilliant career
The advancement of women in medical research remains a challenge, but momentum is pushing through new frontiers for women in science
Welcome to a special episode of Eavesdrop on Expert where we encourage experts to obsess, confess and profess.
Hi, I’m Dr Andi Horvath. My colleague, Buffy Gorrilla, and I attended the 2019 International Women Day event called “My Brilliant Career” it was held by the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Melbourne. It features 6 female leaders in the field of Biomedicine who speak about their career journeys, lessons learnt and advice to younger people.
We have captured the event here and we also ventured out into the crowd afterwards to see what resonated with the audiences.
We bring you “My Brilliant Career”.
Good evening, thank you for everyone for taking a seat. My name is Fabienne Mackay. I head the School of Biomedical Sciences for the University of Melbourne, and it's my pleasure to welcome you all for the International Women's Day organised by our school and the university. Welcome, ladies, gentlemen, distinguished guests, colleagues, and also students I can see many students, which is very pleasing to see that many students in the room.
Before I start, I would like to recognise Wurundjeri of the Kulin nation, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and I would like to pay my respects to the elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend a welcome to indigenous Australians joining us tonight.
Now, what is International Women's Day?
It's a global day, and it's celebrating social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, but it's also a call accelerate gender parity. There are many talented women every year that are starting career in education or biomedical sciences, and often what we observe is early, at the early stage of their career there are many women, sometime often more than men, but then when you look at the more senior levels, then there's a serious attrition, and suddenly there are changes for women to basically accept a leadership position, most senior positions. We really need to look at what are the challenges and do something about it.
The theme of International Women's Day this year is Balance for Better. What this means, it means to overcome specific challenges women are facing when they're trying to progress their career. Of course, this work doesn't stop on International Women's Day. This is something that we're currently working, and we have to continue to work because the fight is far from over.
But what I'd like to talk about is a lady whose been absolutely phenomenal in STEM, and the reason why I think of her, and I always thought of her during my career because she's linked to my birth country, which is France.
Actually, Marie Curie, as you can see on this slide is Polish born, French naturalised, physicist and chemist, but her life in research started ... was very difficult. She was born in Poland, but in Poland at the time, she was not allowed to study at the university. She was denied entry at the University of Krakow. Her father was a mathematician and was teaching mathematics. She was fortunate in a way that one of her sister moved to Paris, and she was able to live with her sister and be supported by her sister to study at the University of Paris, where she met her future husband, Pierre Curie, and both of them worked and made an extraordinary discovery on the theory of radioactivity and also discovered the power of radium and polonium through the journey.
Despite all this magnificent work, she was also denied entry to the French Academy of Science and the College de France, which was very prestigious at the time, still is. But despite all of the hurdle, all the prejudice, all the barriers she's had, amazingly she secured two Nobel Prizes in physics and in chemistry. To this date, she's the first woman who's got two Nobel Prizes and only individual to this date who secured two Nobel Prizes in two different disciplines. That's not all.
Her own daughter, Irene, was also awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry. In fact, the whole Curie family, I'm told, had five prizes, Nobel Prizes, including one Peace prizes. It's an amazing dynasty. When I think of Marie Curie, and if she could stand here today and look at the younger female young ladies in the audience, and if she could give them an advice, she would say don't ask yourself if you'll ever be successful. Just ask yourselves what's stopping you?
It is very important for me to introduce our panellists to you tonight. Wonderful women. And I will start with Dr Andrea Douglas, and Andrea is senior vice-president organisation, transformation, and external affairs at CSL Limited. She's a director of AusBiotech, director of bio curate, and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Andrea, before joining CSL, she was a CEO of Gene Centre for Research Corporation, and Andrea has a PhD in forensic medicine, a master’s in health administration, and she's also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. It's a lot done in one career, so very accomplished lady.
Thank you, Fabienne. It's certainly a pleasure to be here tonight.
Of course, one of the advantages of being in a more established phase of our career is that there's a lot of material to reflect on. I guess when I reflect on my career, what's really poignant to me is I never had a plan, never had a plan. It was not a path that I mapped out. I know now that that's okay. When I reflect on my career, I look at it as a ... with a series of really key, pivotal points in my career that have led me to where I am today. I'm going to take you through four of those pivotal points, and really, my reflection is that either creating opportunities or making the most of opportunities that come along has really gone to creating the richness that I've had in my career and the opportunities that I've really taken along the way.
The first pivotal point for me was leaving the lab. I was a postdoctoral scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and I left the lab and took a position as business manager in then CEO of the Gene CRC, which was like a small biotech, but really with an academic industry interface. And it was a really big move for multiple reasons, not the least of which is I've written a few quotes here. Was your PhD a complete waste of time? It's the easy way out; going to the dark side. I really, literally, had someone tell me that my IQ would drop by at least 30 when I left the lab. That always makes the stakes a little bit higher.
But in all seriousness, I think the two reasons that I left the lab was the first one, which was a little bit negative, but also quite realistic, I was a postdoctoral with Doug Hilton, and I knew I would never be a Doug Hilton, and I compared myself to people of the scale and calibre of Doug and people that I'm sitting here with, and I knew that that was not my absolute strength. But what I did know was that I'd had a taste of translation, and I was working on breast cancer research with a translational component, and I knew that I wanted more. So, they were really the drivers for me. That seven years that I had at the Gene CRC, I have to say still is the most intense period for me in my career in terms of learning. I learnt so much in that period, and a lot of what I've built since then is because of that first step out of the lab.
The second pivotal point for me was having a child, and that's 16 years ago now, and you might say, well, why is having a child a pivotal point in your career. It was and it still is. I think having a child really taught me, for me, that in order to have a full and enriched life, I wanted and needed work and I wanted home. And think still, to me, that balance, which is different at different time of my career and in my life, is really important that I like to see myself as a full person, not a work person and then a home person. I think it really taught me that.
I think the other thing that having a child taught me is to be damned productive and efficient. There's nothing like having 30 minutes in between nappy changing or feed and sleep cycles to be really efficient, or a five PM deadline. Before having children, you can just keep going and going until you finish what you're doing, but that certainly, for me, really taught me about productivity and efficiency with lots of other things as well.
The third pivotal point for me was really moving into pharma or industry proper from that small biotech type of organisation and into a larger organisation where there were really specialised roles. It gave me a real appreciation of the skills and the muscle, actually, in term of resources and financial muscle it takes to transition an idea from the lab into the clinic, and then ultimately to patients and the marketplace. I've learnt really different things at each phase.
I've also learned a lot at CSL, in that big organisation, about management and leadership and about getting the most out of individual, not necessarily because of their direct experience or the past jobs that they've had, but because of their skillset. I think it's really important that we give people opportunities based on what we think they're good at and what their skillset, not necessarily just about their career path to date. I think I've also learnt about the importance of teamwork, working in a big organisation, and also the importance of knowing in an organisation how to get things done, and that internal stakeholders and networks and how important that that is.
My final pivotal point was about a year ago, and has led to the current role that I have, which is leaving RND. My current role I've been in for about four weeks-time, and as you heard, I'm now leading a transformational effort in a global, 22 thousand people organisation, which is not where I would have mapped my career at all. But about a year ago, the CEO, we're developing our 2030 strategy for CSL, and the CEO called on his leaders to nominate about 30 people to come to this design workshop that would say we know what our 2030 strategy is, what type of organisation do we need? And I wasn't on the list. My boss at the time didn't put my name forward, but I knew who else was there, and I knew damn well that I could contribute. And in one of my not so finest moments, because I was probably too emotional when I spoke to my boss, I had confidence in myself, and I said to him, "I need to be there." And he came back to me the next day, and he said, "Not 'cause you're upset or emotional, but because I've thought about it, and you can contribute."
I went to that design shmurah that they called it, and I was really affective, and I made a difference, and I ended up leading a work stream over the last year. That lead to me now, in the whole organisation, leading what we as an organisation want to look like. I think what I really learnt from that is have confidence in yourself, and I think as a female, we're probably not as good at that as males are, and I think that's something that I've really learnt from that last experience.
I think, based on those pivotal points, the four things for me in my career is really seek, create, and look for opportunities, and sometimes they're left field opportunities, and that's okay. Know your unique strength, relative to other people, I think is really important. Have confidence and trust yourself, and work out, really, what's important for you in your life. Don't look at others and say, well, they do this, or she does that, and maybe I should be reflecting them. Work out what's really important for you and really strive. And it's not ...sometimes they're are going to be really challenging, but really strive to try to create what's really important to you in your life.
So, thank you.
The next beautiful and very unusually accomplished lady is Professor Kathryn North. Kathryn is the director of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the David Danks Professor of Child Health Research at the University of Melbourne. She's, of course, a university alumnus, and also a global leader in genetics medicine. Kathryn was awarded this year the Companion to the Order of Australia, and really this recognises a service to medicine in the field of neuromuscular and neurogenetics research, pediatrics, and child health as a clinician and an academic. Now, it's not just all that. She's also the inaugural fellow of the Australian Academy of Health Medical Science, one of them, and she was also a past recipient of the Ramaciotti Medal for Research Excellence and the GSK Australia Award for Research Excellence. And I could go on. That's only some of the many, many achievements that I have on Kathryn.
It's great to be here tonight, and I think the greatest fun of this was trying to think about how you condense and talk about your career or the balance that you try to achieve in a few minutes. I then decided to boil this down to five words that I talk about, which is passion, serendipity, choice, collaboration, and mentorship.
Now, when I was young, Andrea started her talk by saying that she never had a plan. I look back and I think I always had a plan. I think it's a very boring part of my personality is that I always like to function on a planning two years ahead or having a five-year plan. What I'm very happy to say is that over the years I've deviated from those plans, which have given me some of the best experiences. But I think the first point in terms of your career and whatever path you chose, is the most important thing about it is being passionate about it. If you're thinking about what you do, and I talk to the young people of today, and you go what do you want to do? And they're going, oh, I don't know. I just go find something that you're passionate about, that you love, and that you're interested in, and you can change it over time, but it's so important to do something you love because you're going to do it for the rest of your life.
For me, going into medicine, which is something I always wanted to do, and I got the marks, which, unfortunately, I think is what drives a bunch of people to do medicine, I actually found that it was my year, I was getting a bit sick of studying. I went straight into an undergraduate course I those days, and I took a year out to do research. It was the B of C Med in those days, and I chose it in an area that, just, I wasn't yet passionate about, but it fascinated me, which was birth defects, which is weird. But I just found it quite fascinating to ... we learned about embryology and development, and to think how development goes wrong. That year in research just captivated me because I learned about, instead of just studying in being spoon fed, you could go and find out stuff for yourself, and you had an autonomy and a control over your time, and you could find stuff you're interested in and become quite passionate about it. I must say, I still very much about research, as I did then, today.
The next thing that I found that I was passionate about was after I finished my research year and went and did the next year of medicine, and I was much more enthusiastic about what I was doing, and then I did paediatrics and just working with kids and the, again, I think that fascination with development and the rare disorders that happen in children really drove me. And then I became quite attracted to neurology. I think because the head of neurology could do ventriloquism with a Donald Duck voice, which I thought was incredibly clever, but was also a very funny, charismatic group of people, which I think is another thing that you do. You're attracted to the people that you'd like to grow up to be. What I took away from that is I picked a few areas that I became really interested in, and I'm still interested in all those areas today.
Another piece of advice I would give you is that, which Andrea has touched on, as well, is if you're interested in something, if you're passionate about something, go and pick an important person and tell them about it and ask them to help you because they always will. I mean, unless they're not great people, but most people in leadership ... I was going to say something different, but it's being podcast, is that most people have such generosity of spirit, and I'm always just delighted when someone comes and asks for my help and wants my guidance, that I think you'll find people will help you.
My next word is serendipity or the unexpected, so despite all my great plans, I think some of my pivotal points in my career have been related to the unexpected and following on from the unexpected. I think the biggest part of that I plan two years ahead because when I was doing my paediatric neurology training, in those days you had to do what we call the BOSCB, which is you've been overseas and then you came back. And so, I planned in two years before I needed to that, I actually went and did a series of interviews that I'd organised around the US in terms of doing fellowships in neurology. And so, I'd lined up to go to Boston, to Columbia Presbyterian in New York, to John Hopkins, and to Houston.
Meanwhile, while I was doing my neurology training, I'd also set up a neurogenetics clinic and focused on a particular disease that I became very passionate about, and I still work on it today, called neurofibromatosis, and I'd set up to become a pen pal-we actually used to write in those days. There were no such things as email-to a neurogenetists in Boston that helped me, gave me great advice over a year or so about how to set up my clinic. And so, I turned up in Boston. I went and did my interviews that morning. Nailed it, I thought, to get a neurology fellowship, and then I met up with Bruce Koff, who's a neurogeneticist, for lunch. We're sitting and chatting over lunch, and he went, "Why are you coming to do neurology? You've done neurology. Why don't you come and do genetics?"
And I thought, "That's a good idea." And he said, "Okay, I'll set up some interviews this afternoon." So, I did a series of interviews that afternoon, went off and did interviewed for the rest of the neurology jobs, but it really stuck in my mind, I hadn't thought of that. Of course, I've done neurology. Why not explore this other area I was very interested in? And when I think, today, of all the work that I'm doing in genetic and genomics, I thank God that I'm qualified in the area, but I think that was a really a major change in path that I made, just in the middle because it seemed like a very good idea.
I think the next point I want to talk about is choices, and I think we all have these pivot points in our careers where you're presented with two different paths. I think the most recent of that for me, and probably one of the most difficult decisions I made, was the decision to come to Melbourne because I was happily ensconced in Sydney. I was like the pin up girl for work/life balance in Sydney because I'd organised my ... I was the chair of paediatrics up there, and I had a research institute, and I'd organised my environment to suit me over the years. Then the opportunity came up of the job to run the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, I thought, nah, I'll go and have a look. But I came down, and I knew this place, but then, as I spent more time there, I just went back home and I said, "I really want this. I can see these immense possibilities," even though it meant uprooting myself, my family, telling everyone that I worked with that I was going to leave, which I had to do when I eventually got that job.
It was a difficult choice because it was an uncomfortable choice, and I think it probably took me about five years to settle into Melbourne, but it's a choice I never regret because I think it's great to be challenged. It's great to try something new, and it's great to be scared about doing that. My other piece of very wise advice would be don't take the path ... don't always take the path of least resistance. I think sometimes the path of greatest resistance is much more rewarding.
Finally, I'd like to talk about two things that I found incredibly important in my career, and when I then thought about it, both relate to the importance of the people you work with. So, my first piece of advice is life is too short to work with difficult people. Don't. I'll just leave that there. I can tell you some stories. But the most joy that I get in my job, through from when I was doing basic neuromuscular research up to now, where we're engaged in national and international networks, is how much fun it is to work with other people that are as passionate about the same thing as you are. I think collaboration and working with other people is one of the great joys that we have in the field of medical research, in particular. It is fun. They become lifelong friends. It's enjoyable. You find people with the same quirky sense of humour and know the same things that you do.
It's also about being generous, as well, and there's enough for all of us to do, and really talking with people and making sure that you're sharing, and that collaboration is a two way street is extremely important. And collaboration then leads and is part of one of the most important things, which I think is mentorship. Another very, very good piece of advice I give to the young people is always be kind to the young and unimportant because one day they probably will be much more important, and they'll remember you. But apart from that as a negative driver, I think that if we all think back, and I can think back to my mentors, the head of neurology that first took me on at the Children's Hospital in Sydney, Bruce Koff, who gave me that great piece of advice and was just visited MCRIs, as one of our major international guests a couple of months ago, is that I look back on those people that have influenced my life, or actually taken the time to talk to me when I was young and unimportant, and they still mean a lot to me today. I talked to my original mentor on Sunday this week, as he was just ringing up for a bit of a chat.
I think that I then think of all the people I've mentored over the years, as my students or my postdocs, and I think of them as my children. I'm as proud of them and their achievements as I would be of my own member of my family. I think mentorship and looking after others, and you can do it at every level, whether it's younger kids in your school, whether it's young students coming into your lab as a postdoc, and every level, and today I get to mentor some great young leaders as well. I think probably, if I had to pin down one thing, I've enjoyed the most in my career, it's that engagement with others, but also getting people addicted to research and breeding that next generation.
The next phenomenal lady tonight is Professor Ingrid Scheffer, pediatric neurologist and professor at the University of Melbourne, Austin Health and The Royal Children's Hospital. She's a physician scientist. Ingrid has been a leader in the field of epilepsy genetics for more than 20 years. She was awarded the L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureate for Asia-Pacific in 2012, and she received an Order of Australian in 2014. And that's not all again. She's a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, again also a founding fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. Extraordinarily, she's also a fellow of the Royal Society, which is an amazing international recognition for the work Ingrid has done over the years.
Well, I'll start by saying, Kathy is an impossible act to follow. Always positive and upbeat, and my message is a reality check, but I hope you hear exactly the same messages from, I think, all of us.
Firstly, Fabienne, thank you for the honour of joining these incredible women with brilliant careers. As for me, the last thing I ever thought my career would be called was brilliant, and on reflection, I did not set out with that in mind. I set out with the altruistic aim of helping people but looking after patients drove my curiosity to ask scientific questions because I wanted to better understand their diseases. And the exciting outcome from that is that my research has allowed me to make an impact on people all over the world with epilepsy. I'd like to focus on three main themes: resilience, gender styles and bias, and most importantly, my career mantra, which is enjoy the journey and don't be so worried about the endpoint.
Life is not straightforward, and that's for all of us, but my career has faced countless hurdles, some of which have certainly been related to my gender. Overcoming challenges requires resilience. It's how you respond to these hurdles that actually defines you. Let's start with my training in pediatrics. It was far from straightforward. I had a year in exile in Adelaide, due largely to my political naivete, and then I failed my first oral exam for the specialists exams, which is the first thing I'd ever failed in my life. Then I wanted to train in paediatrics neurology in Melbourne, but that was not possible, as I was the first women in an all-male world.
Indeed, to be a neurologist in this town, and Kathy was north in Sydney, required a uniform of a navy jacket, grey trousers, and a Y chromosome, but I was then fortunate enough to go to Street Hospital in London, and that gave me a far more worldly perspective than if I had stayed in Australia.
When I returned, there was also no consultant physician, and I had to map myself out a career while doing my PhD, including a year of full-time work for free. Thus, from starting with medicine to completing my PhD only took a cool 21 years. And if you think about Kathy, she had a plan. She went straight for it. Mine was a bit like this.
Now, that was a while ago, and the issues around women's careers still remain in 2019. Many of my male colleagues feel that gender inequity is no longer an issue in our developed world, but whilst it has improved, undoubtedly, it is just far more subtle. We still see conferences advertised today with entirely male speakers, male chairs, and not a woman in site.
There's no doubt that men and women have different styles, and that's wonderful thing and not something I would want to change. But at the risk of making gross generalisations, our fundamental differences in style, and Andrea alluded to this as well, mean that we often present ourselves less confidently than men, and we promote ourselves less well. This means that we can be overlooked for a role, or we can manage a situation quite differently to our male peers.
Now, I love running my group with my closest male collaborator. In both our research and clinical meetings, we have very different styles. We bring different perspectives and different solutions to a problem. We both feel that the outcome of our combined leadership is far greater than the sum of its parts, but the price I had to pay was that I lived for a long time in the shadow of a great man. It took many years for me to be recognised as an independent thinker, and I have to say that happened much earlier overseas than in Australia. So then it was especially meaningful, when in 2014, we were co-recipients of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
Now, I wanted to touch for a moment on attitudes. The way we approach life is key. At the risk of giving unwanted advice, younger people sometimes feel they have a right to a smooth career path, where each step seamlessly follows the next. This belief is fundamentally flawed. When things don't go according to plan, such as not getting the job you want, or your paper or grant are rejected, this allows serendipity to prevail, and this means you can take unexpected opportunities that arise, and these often lead to the most surprising and fulfilling career outcomes. For example, I never thought I'd be any good at research, but when the fellowship I'd arranged in Melbourne fell through, it meant I was lucky enough to embark on a PhD in clinical research, which turned out to be both my unexpected forte and my passion.
Now, I've mentioned a few of the hurdles in my career, but there have also been lots of high points along the journey. One highlight was the L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureate in 2012, and this led to my face being plastered across many billboards in Parisian airports. Now this required multiple makeovers, and L'Oréal ... and L'Oréal ensured that I was made over to within an inch of my life. This meant having my fringe combed at least 60 times in one hour for one photo, and that has to be deemed a life-threatening experience.
The awards I've received have undoubtedly changed my career trajectory, but they have not changed the reason for what I do, the wonderful paradigm shifting outcomes I've witnessed, and the impact on families dealing with epilepsy around the world. I particularly love seeing my work translate to help my patients. Two weeks ago, at six PM, after a long and exhausting clinic, I rang Kate, the mother of Jane. I've looked after Jane for 20 years, and she has severe intellectual disability and severe epilepsy. I said, "I've got good news, Kate. We have the answer, the cause for Jane's problems." Kate replied, "I never thought I'd hear that in my lifetime, Ingrid." Hearing a mother say that makes it all worthwhile.
And last, but not least, is Professor Kanta Subbarao. Kanta is the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza at the Peter Doherty Institute, and a professor at a School of Biomedical Science. Kanta is a virologist and a physician with specialty training in paediatrics and paediatric infectious disease. Her research focuses on newly emerging viral disease of global importance, and including pandemic of influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndromes. She's also a Fellow of the American Society of Microbiology, and she had a very distinguished career in the United States National Institute of Health prior to coming to Melbourne.
All right. So, thank you, Fabienne for the invitation to be on this panel. I'm a relative newcomer to Australia, so it's a real privilege to be on a panel with all of you. I've now lived in four countries and three continents, so I feel like a bit of a global citizen. I was born in the US, grew up in India, went to medical school in India at [inaudible] school of [inaudible], and I got my advanced clinical training in paediatrics and infectious diseases in the US. And then I went on to a research career in biomedical sciences in the US and was recruited to the Doherty Institute about two years ago.
My career has actually evolved very differently from what I expected at 16. I started medical school and trained as a clinician, fully expecting to practice medicine, but during my fellowship training, I went to a virology lab and just loved it. I started a faculty position that was a typical academic career, combining clinical medicine with research, and I realised I needed more research training. That was my first crossroads: trying to decide whether to go get some more training, to give it up and be a clinician, or go into clinical research, so one of those three.
I decided to go for more training and went to the National Institutes of Health for a postdoc. So there are always pros and cons to choices, and medicine is very temperamental, and by the time I'd finished meds and infectious diseases and everything, I'd been in clinical medicine for 12 years of training, and I'd finally crept to the top of the heap and was finally in a full paid job. And to give that up and go to a lab and be taught how to pipette and to clean up after myself and be, really, are most inexperienced person in the room was quite humbling. Fortunately, my mentor at the NIH was a physician scientist who was extremely patient while I got up to speed, and we have remained in touch over all these years.
I went to the NIH expecting to spend about three years there. Ended up spending about five, and really still intended to go back out into an academic research career, but I've ended up with a career in full-time and research. I don't practice medicine anymore, and I must say when I go to hear a really fascinating clinical seminar, I think, oh, there was a reason I liked that. But for the most part, I don't miss clinical medicine on a day-to-day basis.
I've been phenomenally lucky in the professional opportunities that have come my way. I've been in the right place at the right time more than once. I was at the Centres for Disease Control in the US for about three months in a new job when the first bird flu, H5N1 virus, was isolated in Hong Kong. My lab characterised that virus, and it really changed to trajectory of my career because I used to work on human influenza, and now I switched to work on avian influenza.
Now, some years later, I was back at the NIH, now running, starting a new program to development pandemic influenza vaccines, and SARS emerged in Asia. I offered to work on SARS because I was experienced in working in a high containment lab, and I was ... I'm a virologist, and with a stroke of a pen, the director of our institute doubled my budget and doubled my space, and I had a new program. For five years, I worked on SARS and had a very productive five years. Being at the right place at the right time was important.
What were some of the lows and challenges? Others have talked about this, there's certainly sexism and bias that I've encountered. Some of its systematic, and some of it unconscious. There's the two-body problem that can be very challenging that I have personal experience with. If you want to move, you have to find two careers, usually independently. My husband and I have usually taken turns finding jobs. Although, I must admit to having hijacked it more than once.
When jobs don't turn out to be what was promised can be very distressing, and it does happen, and you need to learn the tools of how to deal with that. Women don't do terribly well with salary negotiations and equity. I don't know if salary equity is problem in Australia, but it certainly is in the United States. And then one of the other things I reflect on is trying to find ... make sure that your boss will support you, not just pay lip service to it.
Career highs, on the other hand, I think sexism has decreased since the 1980s when I first hit the job market. There are many more opportunities available, and in the West, we have the luxury of being able to change career paths. What you choose at the get go is not necessarily what you'll end up for the rest of your life. If you do want to make a change, we do have the luxury of change.
Another thing that has been very positive and affirming for me is women supporting women. There are women who have written letters to my bosses, unsolicited, about a talk I've given at a conference or something like that. That's been wonderful.
I've had the good fortune, a lot of good fortune, on the way. I grew up in an academic family, in an academic environment. I have a very supportive partner and outstanding education, wonderful mentors, and a lot of luck, as I said, of being at the right place at the right time, and I've had excellent collaborators and trainees over the years.
So what's my advice to you in the room. Mentors find one or more mentor. They don't have to be the same, in your field. You can have more than one mentor, one in your field and one not, and your needs from the mentors might change, and so you might find other people to mentor you over the course of time.
Network, network, network. This is really important, to learn how to do it, get over the social anxieties that one faces and learn how to network.
I think this was said earlier. Try not to burn bridges. You just never know when people turn up again. I was on a PhD committee for somebody who now heads one of the most well-funded part of the US government's Department of Health. In today's world, your first job is not necessarily going to be your last job, and so I've made it a policy to keep a list in my desk of things I like about my job, things I don't like, things I wished I'd known before, so that if you're in the position of negotiating another job, you don't make the same mistakes again. At least you learn to ask those. You'll find a whole set of things, but at least those things you can address.
Changing jobs comes with some risks and challenges, but it can be very invigorating. Before we moved here to this set of jobs, I talked to people who had changed careers, changed jobs at my stage, and many people just found it really invigorated their science.
Looking back, I'd say if you keep an open mind and are open to new challenges, you don't know where you'll end up. It could be at the other end of the world.
And finally, Professor Megan Munsie is going to animate the Q&A series. She's the director, deputy director of the Centre for Stem Cells System in our school, also head of engagement, ethics, policy program at Stem Cells Australia, and she's combined her extensive technical experience in stem cell research with an interest in complex ethical, social, and regulatory issues associated with stem cells in research and in the clinic. She's been an author on one of the best authored books in Australian sociology, which has been ... had a lot of award and also prestigious international awards for work on ethics, human ethics, education, law, and community awareness about stem cell research
Hello podcaster listeners as Megan Munsie is about to come onto the stage, I want to remind about the title of the event is ‘My Brilliant Career’ by Stella, Maria, Sarah Miles Franklin.
Thank you. I'm going to take it for a moment because I want to reflect a little bit about the woman whose book, we've stolen the title of for tonight's proceedings. That is Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin. You might well recognise perhaps the book. Maybe you read it quite some time ago, or you saw the film that actually came out in 1979, which I was a bit surprised about when I looked it up, or maybe you've heard about Miles Franklin Prize or the Stella Literary Prize that's also in her honour.
What I think I wanted to do was remind you a little bit of the plot but not spend much time talking about its literary merits or not. If you remember, Sybylla is the heroine in the story, and she's marooned in the Australian bush. She has dreams of becoming a famous writer, despite the long odds and the opposition of her family. What I found really compelling about the story of the publication of this novel is that while Miles Franklin wrote it, she was 19. She submitted it to publication in the late 1890s, and it was rejected. But she didn't stop there. She didn't let that deter her. She wrote to a lot of famous Australian writers and editors and asked them for help.
The person who answered her was Henry Lawson, a famous Australian writer and publisher and editor. Why he answered or responded to her quest was that he read her description of bush life and the scenery, and it resonated with him as the truest he'd ever read. Although, he also said, "He didn't really get the girlishly emotional parts of the book." He then showed the manuscript to his Scottish publishers, and I suppose the rest is history.
I just want to make a side note and say that when the book was published, the publishers asked for some redactions around her criticisms of the empirical England, I suppose, at the time and also removed the sardonic question mark that was in the title of the book, which I think is actually quite interesting and perhaps changes how we reflect on it.
Anyway, now I wanted to turn to the panel because I think that's a lovely story of what we've ... reinforces what we've heard from many of the panellists tonight around the need to ask for help. I think, obviously, Stella did that, and I think we are giving the advice that you should be asking for help. But how do you do that? What grabs your attention? For Henry, it as the prose. For you, what ... you must get lots of inquiries. What resonates with you? Kathy?
I just love enthusiasm. I think that, particularly with younger people, they're often scared to approach you, so I really admire anyone that will overcome their reticence or their fear and will make an appointment or come up to me and just talk and talk about what they want.
I think one of my favourite instances was when I was I Sydney and I gave a talk at the ... one of the other children's hospitals in Sydney, and I was talking about my work in neuromuscular disease, and at the end of that, one of the young doctors there came up to me and just looked at me and said, "I want your job." And she's now the head of a major neurology department not so far away.
So, it's, I think, you admire people that will take a shot, and it's not that many people. I would always stand up, and when I was talking to the medical students coming through every term and say, "Please, if you're interested in a career in paediatrics or in research, come and talk to me. And maybe one or two a term, if that."
Hi Andi Horvath, here again, Buffy Gorilla and I dived into the crowd afterwards here is what they thought.
Vox pops after the event
As a science experiment we asked a few people prior to the event what their expectations were.
Vox pop expectations
Not only were expectation were met but honest insights were energising. It was the welcome inspiration to the next generation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine.
Eavesdrop on Experts - stories of inspiration and insights - was made possible by the University of Melbourne
This episode was recorded on 7 March, 20 19.
Production by Dr Andi Horvath, Buffy Gorrilla and Arch Cuthbertson.
Eavesdrop on Experts is licensed under Creative Commons, Copyright 2019, The University of Melbourne. Hey, review us on iTunes and share the link, oh and check out the rest of the episodes in our archive.
I’m Andi and we’re celebrating international Women’s day with you.
While progress has been made, men still hold 60 per cent of senior positions within the Australian Medical Research Institute’s 49-member organisations, according to 2018 data.
For International Women’s Day, six female leaders in medical research come together to discuss the professional challenges they’ve overcome, to help encourage more women in science to build successful, enduring careers.
Professor Fabienne Mackay, head of the School of Biomedical Sciences, joins Professor Kathryn North AC, Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute with Laureate Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO and others to dispel some myths about women working at the cutting-edge of medical research.
“Role models will not ask aspiring young women what would help them, but rather what stops them,” says Professor Mackay.
“At a point in your life something will drive your passion, it will come early or later depending on the person, but once you have that passion nothing should stop you.”
Recorded: March 7, 2019
Reporters: Dr Andi Horvath and Buffy Gorrilla
Audio engineer: Arch Cuthbertson
Banner: Getty Images
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