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