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Franklin Women Part 2: Mentoring Program

It’s not always an easy road to travel when you’re working in medical research. This is particularly so for women who experience unique challenges. Unfortunately there is a point at mid-career level when many are leaving the profession resulting in an under-representation of women in leadership positions.

Knowing this to be the case, Franklin Women developed their Mentoring program. Designed to support high-potential women in health and medical research careers progress into leadership positions, the program commenced in 2017 and since, has gone from 54 mentors and mentees in their inaugural year to 72 in this year’s program.

Tara Roberts, Lois Holloway, and Professor Geoff Delaney were three of the first four participants from South West Sydney to go through the inaugural program. They were nominated and supported by Ingham Institute and have nothing but praise for the benefits that have come from their participation.

If you’re reading back and wondering whether there’s been an error in the list of names above, let me confirm that yes, you read it right. While the mentees undergoing the program are exclusively women, the mentors can be, and have been, both men and women. In fact, one of the aims of the program is to provide both male and female leaders with the opportunity to develop their mentorship skills. Having both male and female mentors ensures that mentees are matched with the absolute best mentors possible.

Speaking about their experience with the program, Lois and Tara (both from Ingham Institute) agree that the program provided an invaluable learning experience coupled with an opportunity to reflect on and plan their careers.

“Mid-career academic life can be quite challenging and I realised that getting guidance from a completely independent mentor would be extremely valuable,” explains Tara.

Lois agrees, “It was an excellent opportunity to talk to someone with more experience and enabled me to reflect on what the next steps were going to be for me in my career.”

For Professor Delaney, Director of Cancer Services SWSLHD, mentorship is something he strongly believes in.

“I had many good mentors as I progressed through my career so I see great value in mentoring. I wanted to participate in the Franklin Women’s Mentoring Program because I could use my experience to give back and help guide others,” he explains.

This guidance was particularly useful in the informal one-to-one sessions that mentors and mentees had together every six weeks over the course of the six-month program.

“During the informal one-to-one sessions with my mentee, we would discuss any problems she was encountering and discuss potential solutions. The feedback I received from my mentee, at the completion of the program, was that it helped her gain confidence and provided her with alternative ways of dealing with problems,” explains Professor Delaney.

According to Tara, the informal meetings were the best part of the program.

“They made me lock-in time to focus on my own career development and to set goals,” says Tara.

In addition to the informal sessions, mentors and mentees of the Franklin Women’s Mentoring Program attend formal events and interactive workshops where mentees are taught valuable leadership skills.

“I liked having larger discussions but then also great was the ability to drill into your particular situation on a one-on-one basis,” says Lois.

Interestingly, the program does not match mentors and mentees from the same organisation. Rather the mentors and mentees are matched from the entire pool of applicants to ensure that the goals of both are met.

Tara is full of praise for the matching process which, she believes, matched her with a mentor who was a perfect fit.

“Having a completely independent mentor is very valuable as they provide an objective viewpoint,” explains Tara.

Asked about the biggest take-aways from the program, Tara’s advice was simple:

“The best advice I got was not to forget to put yourself forward. If you see a gap, you need to be prepared to put yourself out there and take those opportunities.”

South West Sydney Research (SWSR) is an active supporter of the Franklin Women’s Mentoring Program. Read next week’s report on the 2018 program in which we interview participants nominated by SWSR.

For more information on Franklin Women Mentoring program, go to: