Women of Influence (in My Life)

You may have seen that I wrote a few blogs about How I left academia (and set up my own business), The value of my PhD (to my business) and How you can transition out of academia (and into business). As part of the process I was recounting my career to date and came to realise many of the people holding significant positions in my work life (e.g. bosses, managers, or supervisors) have been (and continue to be) women. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on their influence and thank them.

I could not write a piece about women of influence in my life and not start with my mum. As a tiger mum she was very encouraging and supportive of academic pursuits. Of my 10 cousins on my mum’s side, 8 went to university and 6 got a PhD. I’m sure you get the picture that high marks were an expectation as was further study. So, my early career was all about get an education, it’ll set you up for life. That is something that I definitely believe to this day, although I might have a broader view of education than my mum. Thanks mum (and dad) for all the work you put in to make sure I could get a great education.

My first real job was at a department store – I had it most of the time I was at university working in the Trim shop (Christmas department), men’s wear and sport. All but one of my bosses over that time were female. They taught me many things. Some lessons were quite specific to the work environment (e.g. being attentive to customer needs); others seemed specific at the time but I now see them as having broader context (e.g. making assumptions about customer sporting needs). Indeed, even being attentive to customer needs has served my current role. Thanks Sue and team.

The next woman of influence in my life was my PhD supervisor and the other lab members within the group. As is still typical in biomedical science, many of the PhD students and early career researchers were female, but that changed in the more established ranks. However, I was fortunate enough to have a female supervisor. Beyond the science and research that you learn within a PhD (from your supervisor as well as many others around you), my supervisor was a model of hard work and determination. Her single-minded focus on research goals was always evident and undoubtedly part of her career success – as a researcher, clinician as well as a leader and manager of others. Thanks Chris and the rest of the lab.

Transitioning immediately from academia to industry after my PhD (i.e. no traditional post doc), might have been hard. However, my boss for that role was perfect. Having left academia to take on other challenges herself, this was her second role post research. Donna modelled great leadership, encouraging my development while also pointing out areas for improvement. She was also acutely aware of the transferable skills within the toolkit of a PhD graduate – immediately honing both my project management and writing skills, while initiating the development of skills in strategic and business planning, as well as facilitation. Donna was also key to my transition to owning my own business. Thank you, Donna, for setting me on a fantastic path, as well as being a wonderful role model as a boss and collaborator. I hope that those who work with and for me, view me as I view you.

Now, as a small business owner I have a myriad of mentors and clients. As I look down my client list 70% are female. This is despite the lack of women in senior leadership roles in general and within academia specifically. Each are fantastic in their own right, playing key roles in research, academia and government as well as professional and not-for-profit services. Thank you for the opportunity of working with some of the best people in Australia in their respective roles.

In this whole journey, my wife has been a constant. Reminding me the limits we set are our own. Encouraging and supporting me to pursue my career; my dreams. Thank you. I hope that I am doing the same for her. Helping her to be the best she can be. Helping her face her own challenges and internal chatter, while also facing the barriers the world puts in front of her because of her gender.

Together, my wife and I are doing our best to raise two lovely daughters. We want to see their world have greater equality and opportunity for women than our world. We don’t want them to be asked as a woman “Do you have children? Oh, how old are they? Oh, do you think you can commit to the role?” We don’t want them to see girls’ and boys’ jobs or sports or skills or activities. We just want them to see jobs, sports, skills and activities.

My career has been influenced (and continues to be influence) by women who are bold, women who have fought for change. I am doing my best to be a man who is being bold, being bold for change; taking my privilege and using it to raise others up, to bring others along  – I encourage you to do the same.

Raven Consulting Group specialises in delivering high quality strategic advice to the education, research and government sectors. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.huysmans@ravencg.com.au) or subscribe to our newsletter.