Women in Science AUSTRALIA supports and promotes initiatives aimed at making a positive contribution and a real difference for women in science, technology, engineering and maths. We congratulate Dr Melina Georgousakis on the recent launch of her exciting new community for women in health and medical research – Franklin Women. Melina shares with us her inspiration for the group and the details of her first event in our blog post today.
Dr Melina Georgousakis is a public health researcher in the area of infectious disease and immunisation. She completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours at The University of Sydney, followed by a PhD and post-doctoral position at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Her PhD research was focused on the design and development of novel vaccines against the bacterial pathogen Group A Streptococcus. Melina has now moved into public health research of vaccine preventable diseases, completing a Masters in Public Health at The University of Sydney in 2012. Melina is a Senior Research Officer at the National Centre for Immunisation Reserch and Surveillance, and Lecturer in the School of Public health, The University of Sydney.
I have a confession to make. Last year I joined a professional group for women in business, Business Chicks. Just to clarify, I wasn’t thinking of moving into business and felt somewhat troubled about being referred to as a ‘chick’ but I wanted to connect. I wanted to meet and relate with other working women, I wanted to be inspired, I wanted to make some career connections. I also just wanted to enjoy some good food with good company. But, after many months of being a ‘Business Chick’, I never went to any of the ridiculously awesome events that they threw. Why? Because I wanted to do all of these things but with women in my own field. And that is where I got the idea of starting Franklin Women.
Franklin Women is a new community for women working in health and medical research and related careers. After many months, a few wrong turns and way too many coffees, the website is now live, along with the Franklin Women Twitter account (@franklinwomen) and Facebook page. Hooray! Franklin Women’s mission is to contribute to the retention of women working in the health sciences. (You would have read in previous posts here on the Women in Science AUSTRALIA blog that women are under-represented in senior science roles and about the factors contributing to this – but I am sure you know them!). So what does Franklin Women hope to achieve? A number of aims are listed on our website but the overarching aim is to build a supportive and vibrant community for women working in health and medical research related careers, whether it be laboratory research, patent law, big pharma or sci com – or any one of the other myriad positions we find ourselves in. Bringing such like-minded women together will organically result in members offering each other advice, mentorship and opportunities. It will also allow for discussions among us ‘on the ground’ around the issues that currently exist in the field, and the possible solutions.
Another aim of Franklin Women is to provide opportunities for personal and professional development through events and workshops. However, Franklin Women events will be different. In our scientific careers we are very fortunate to be able to hear from our eminent colleagues about their research and learn new scientific techniques (through conferences, institute seminars, journal clubs, sabbaticals and so on). But we have less exposure to professional and personal development in areas outside of the technical science, think networking, public speaking, effective writing, management, leadership, writing CVs for non-academic positions, social media – the list goes on. Franklin Women will bring you speakers and workshops in these areas (and inspiring speakers from our field too, of course). The other thing about Franklin Women events is that the venues are going to be unique (no institute seminar rooms), the food great and the environment fun. It is important that women working in health and medical research careers feel invested in, because, well, we deserve it.
The launch event for Franklin Women is a meet and greet in Sydney CBD where we will have the opportunity to hear from guest speaker, Julia Palmer. Julia is paid big bucks to speak to lawyers, blue chip corporations and senior execs and academics on how to make career relationships that matter. Networking (as much as the word makes us cringe) is an important tool for career progression, and Julia assures me it is a skill that can be learnt (phew!). Women aren’t always comfortable with self-promotion but making yourself and your skills known is essential to take advantage of new opportunities in your current role, or when you want to transition into new roles.
A lot has been happening in Australia over the last 12 months in response to the gender inequities in the sciences, and I am excited about how Franklin Women can contribute. Leadership from the top is essential to bring about change and we are seeing this at a policy and institute level. However, what is happening on the ground is just as important, if not more so. In the health sciences space a grass-roots approach to supporting women in the field has been missing and this is where I hope Franklin Women will find its niche. Something good must come from bringing women in similar fields together – it has for women in business, in IT, in engineering, in law. Why not also for women in health and medical research?
Looking forward to making some new relationships with those of you I meet in September. Who knows where they could lead….