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Franklin Women Series Part 3 – Mentoring: is it time well spent?

It takes time to be a mentor. Valuable time. Time that most of us simply don’t have enough of.

So, with time being one of the great challenges in people’s lives, the questions that inevitably arise for people thinking about signing up for the Franklin Women’s mentoring program is: Will it be worth it? Or, will it just be a waste of my time?

According to the mentors who have participated in the first two years of the program it is definitely worth it.

“We are all so time poor in our sector, especially in leadership roles, so making the commitment to the program, which includes attending workshops, is tough,” explains Franklin Women’s Founder, Melina Georgousakis.

“However, we learnt very quickly that once the mentors signed up, they love it and end up learning so much about themselves and how to be a more effective leader.

Professor Valsamma Eapen, a  2017 mentor program was supported by Ingham Institute

Professor Valsamma Eapen, who attended the inaugural program supported by the Ingham Institute, agrees.

“The training helped me become a better mentor, researcher and leader in my organisation,” she explains.

In fact, as a result of discussions with her mentee, Valsa was able to implement a new working arrangement for women researchers going on maternity leave at her workplace.

Evaluations from 2017 and 2018 demonstrated that the program was rated highly by the mentors.  The majority of mentors felt that their participation had the most substantial impact on their knowledge and skills (93%) as well as their beliefs about the value of mentoring (87%).

“I’m normally quite sceptical about leadership programs as I’ve been to a few that weren’t very useful. However, the Franklin Women Mentoring Program was extremely well run which included structured training and structured guidance,” says Associate Professor, Sarah Dennis who was a mentor in the 2018 program.

“We were taught a range of different leadership development/mentoring approaches which we could pick and choose from, according to the needs of our mentees,” Sarah explains.

For Sarah, the program reaffirmed what she believed mentoring should be about.

“I learnt that mentoring isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s about listening and reflecting. In the past, I had a mentor who was all about telling me how to do things. This program affirmed why I stopped seeing that mentor.”

Bronwyn Everett (R) was one of the mentors supported by SWSR for the 2018 Franklin Women Mentoring Program


Professor Bronwyn Everett, a mentor in the 2018 program, wanted to participate in the program as a way of “paying it forward” to another woman.

“As a PhD student I was mentored by a very busy senior colleague and have benefited immensely from her wisdom and generosity,” says Bronwyn.

But Bronwyn discovered that the mentee wasn’t the only one who would benefit. In fact, participating in the program made Bronwyn realise that she also needed to take time to reflect on her own career goals.

“The program caused me to reflect on my own career pathway and the need, in my case, to refocus.”

An effective matching process

One of the most consistent positive comments about the program is the matching process. In order to match mentees with mentors across different organisations, extensive information is gathered such as the career goals of each mentee, their objectives for the program, and their thinking style. Equally important is understanding the professional experiences of each mentor as well as their leadership styles and personality type.

Associate Professor Sarah Dennis (L) was was one of the mentors supported by SWSR for the 2018 Franklin Women Mentoring Program


“The way my mentee and I were matched up was perfect,” says Sarah. “The things she needed support with were things I’m actually quite good at, so I was able to offer the exact guidance she needed.”

Valsa also shared commonalities with her mentee which allowed her to provide her mentee with valuable advice and feedback.

“My mentee had experience in a range of different projects and felt scattered in her focus. As I also have many different areas of interest, I was able to help her realise that she could build a narrative by combining her projects into one related theme which would help her promote her specific expertise.”

Another successful year

“Although it was hard at times to get senior leaders to sign up to the program, the 2018 cohort ended up with some stellar leaders from across the sector. I think this really had to do with the positive word of mouth from those who took part in the pilot year,” says Melina.

“Mentors included institute directors, deans, lab heads, interventional cardiologists. It is really inspiring how participating organisations are supporting their best and brightest to take part in the program.”

Professor Bronwyn Everett and Associate Professor Sarah Dennis were both supported by South West Sydney Research. Professor Valsamma Eapen was supported by the Ingham Institute.