Creating an Equal Future through Mentorship

Young females standing together, smiling
7 March 2020

This International Women’s Day, Sunday, 8 March 2020, we’re being encouraged to think about how we can create an equal future and work towards true equality. It’s also a day to celebrate the efforts of the many women who have brought women’s rights forward over the decades. Unfortunately, according to UN Women, there still isn’t a country in the world that can claim gender equality.

Active steps to achieve equality

There is no doubt that women now, more than ever, are entering the medical profession. At ANU Medical School, student cohorts are very balanced. “This year slightly more females than males have gained a place at our School. Some specialities such as obstetrics and gynecology, allergy and immunology, and paediatrics, see women in the majority. But, Australia still has a long way to go to ensure gender equity in the medical profession, particularly in leadership roles.”, says Director, Professor Imogen Mitchell. 

ANU Medical School is proving they are an organisation paving the way towards gender equity, and walking the talk by having women in leadership positions who mentor upcoming staff and students. Deputy Director, Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes says, “we want to provide a supportive and nurturing environment for all our students, which we do well at our school. In addition to pastoral support, our students have an academic supervisor in year 3 and 4 to provide guidance with career development.”

Inspiring leader

Another female leader at ANU Medical School who is paving the way for younger women is Associate Dean of Health Social Sciences, Christine Phillips. “I think the mentorship of women by women is critical in medicine and probably anywhere.  My own non-linear career has been in some ways typical for many women. It has involved years out of the paid workforce with children, and some sideways steps rather than upward movement along the way.” Christine considers herself lucky to have had (and still has) remarkable women mentors who have encouraged being ambitious for a purpose. Something that really resonated with her. “It meant that many of our discussions were oriented towards the kinds of skills that I might need that were not taught when I was at medical school.”  Soft skills like staying calm under pressure, trusting her emotional connection with patients, and having her voice heard in meetings.  She’s also grateful that she was taught practical skills such as project planning, goal setting, and renavigating when things don’t go according to plan.

Paving the way for younger women

Having had so many positive female mentors in her own life, Christine is paying it forward. “ANU Medical School is unusual in that it has many women in leadership positions, enough for them to form a critical mass to have impact. Growing a meaningful, purposeful career can be difficult for women, particularly in a country like ours that offers such a poor child and elder care safety net. So supporting each other is important.”

Over the past ten years Christine has mentored many female medical students, junior doctors in the Canberra region, and nationally, doctors working in refugee health.  “Every woman should have another woman who believes in them, who points at a mountain and says of course it's climbable; but who also tells you that when you get to the top of the mountain, you should stop, breathe and enjoy the view.”

We thank you Christine and all the other extraordinary women contributing to the development and growth of females through mentorship. One step closer to equality.