FE­MALE SUC­CESS

Nur­tur­ing our young tal­ent

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page -

WOMEN ea­gerly want­ing to join the men in a tech­no­log­i­cal ca­reer are be­ing guided by those who paved the way be­fore them to make their em­ploy­ment tran­si­tions suc­cess­ful.

But in an in­ad­ver­tent ad­van­tage for the in­dus­tries, the men­tor­ships also are help­ing to re­tain the work­ers in their fields, over­com­ing sig­nif­i­cant skill short­ages.

Fe­male uni­ver­sity stu­dents in the third and fourth years of their cour­ses are com­ing un­der the wing of South Aus­tralian women who have pi­o­neered their way in male­dom­i­nated in­dus­tries.

They are be­ing given tips, from ba­sic in­ter­view skills and busi­ness eti­quette to net­work­ing and in­ter­per­sonal skills, as­sis­tance and a friendly ear to en­sure they get a job af­ter grad­u­a­tion - and then stay in their pro­fes­sions.

It helps them to achieve their ca­reer goals in what can be a dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ment for women, who have tra­di­tion­ally strug­gled to be suc­cess­ful in busi­nesses in which they are sur­rounded by men.

It also widens the tal­ent pool from which em­ploy­ers can draw in such de­mand pro­fes­sion­als as en­gi­neers, sci­en­tists and com­puter spe­cial­ists.

Women in In­no­va­tion and Technology (SA) is a not-for-profit women’s group fo­cused on en­cour­ag­ing women into high-tech in­dus­tries and non-tra­di­tional in­dus­tries and roles.

It is ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing them through­out their ca­reers and pro­mot­ing women’s skills. It has set up a men­tor pro­gram to help ad­vance young women at the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide, Uni­ver­sity of South Aus­tralia and Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity.

Men­tors who have suc­ceeded in male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries, not just technology, are help­ing the women from the ini­tial work stage of draft­ing re­sumes and send­ing ap­pli­ca­tion letters to pro­vid­ing more long-term ad­vice on how to work in ar­eas dom­i­nated by men.

De­mand for en­gi­neer­ing and technology grad­u­ates con­tin­ues to grow, ex­ceed­ing the num­ber uni­ver­si­ties can pro­vide each year.

About 85 per cent of stu­dents who study en­gi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide are male and its Fac­ulty of En­gi­neer­ing, Com­puter and Math­e­mat­i­cal Sci­ences is work­ing on turn­ing around the statis­tics and en­sur­ing the fe­males who are al­ready in­ter­ested in and study­ing the de­grees are sup­ported to pur­sue suc­cess­ful ca­reers.

Man­age­ment and Re­search Cen­tre (MARC) chief ex­ec­u­tive and men­tor Penny King says the ‘‘glass ceil­ing’’ can dis­ap­pear com­pletely in the next gen­er­a­tion if as­pir­ing young fe­males are nur­tured and sup­ported early in their ca­reers.

As the daugh­ter of a ca­reer woman who pur­sued a work­ing life early in the first half of the 20th cen­tury, she says she ben­e­fited from the ad­vice of her mother and is ea­ger to do the same for to­day’s young fe­male pro- fes­sion­als. She has been part­nered with Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide fourthyear stu­dent Anna Bur­nett, who is study­ing a dou­ble de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal en­gi­neer­ing and eco­nom­ics.

‘‘I be­lieve that the more women men­tor our young women who come into our busi­ness and com­mer­cial world, the more suc­cess­ful women in gen­eral are go­ing to be,’’ Ms King says.

‘‘Be­tween the two of us, we talk about women’s role in busi­ness, how to get the first job and make it count.’’

She says the two will con­tinue their as­so­ci­a­tion and at­tend func­tions and busi­ness events be­yond her stud­ies to help her on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

Ms Bur­nett says the as­sis­tance has been in­valu­able and she is look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the re­la­tion­ship into the start of her ca­reer.

‘‘I thought it can only help to get a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence and to have a men­tor who is able to help me with a re­sume and letters for ap­pli­ca­tions and things like that,’’ she says.

‘‘I had a few ques­tions re­gard­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence, do­ing some things that I haven’t been quite sure about.’’

She says her ex­pe­ri­ence in her stud­ies al­ready has ex­posed her to be­ing in a gen­der mi­nor­ity.

‘‘I just need to be aware that there are more males in en­gi­neer­ing but it’s not a big thing at all,’’ she says.

Stu­dents need to ap­ply for a men­tor and a place in the pro­gram, which has been run in South Aus­tralia since 2005.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for the 2011 pro­gram will open next year.

Pic­ture: SARAH REED

Man­age­ment and Re­search Cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive Penny King men­tors fourth-year stu­dent Anna Bur­nett.

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