WATTLE program turns attention to professional staff

Thursday 6 June 2019

WATTLE (Women Attaining Leadership) participants.

The new Women Attaining Leadership (WATTLE) program focuses on nurturing universities’ professional staff.

In summary

  • Women Attaining Leadership (WATTLE) Program supports professional staff with inaugural program
  • WATTLE recognised the need for a program to support professional staff and the challenges they face

  • Women from eight universities attended the five-day program

Two Swinburne leaders have expanded their leadership skills by participating in Women Attaining Leadership’s (WATTLE) inaugural five-day program for professional staff.

WATTLE is a national program aimed at empowering women to attain senior university leadership roles.

Based on the successful New Zealand Women in Leadership Programme (NZWiL), WATTLE is now running two programs per year - one for academics and another for professional staff.

This week, first professional program kicked off, which has been designed to empower participants to reflect on their careers by hearing from inspirational leaders, discussing career progression and creating a network.

Acting Director of Facilities and Services, Lys Bradshaw, and Manager of Indigenous Student Services at the Moondani Toombadool Centre, Vicky Peters, represented Swinburne for the program.

Ms Peters’ takeaway from the week is the critical role professional staff play in the university environment, and how they can be leaders despite not being academics.

Through a number of interactive workshops and engaging panel discussions, Ms Bradshaw says learning from diverse female leaders has been invaluable.

Topics highlighted as part of the professional program range from leadership development, personal branding and managing change, to inclusive leadership, mindfulness and organisational politics.

Participants hit the ground running on day one with an interactive ‘Women in Innovation’ workshop that introduced the principles of design thinking through a mini design challenge.

Design Factory Melbourne coach Pauliina Mattila led the workshop, which was sponsored by the Innovation Precinct at Swinburne.

Design Factory Melbourne and the Innovation Precinct have a longstanding mission to empower women in innovation.

A number of Swinburne academics and professional staff shared their knowledge by leading workshops and sessions as part of the program this week, including Professor Simone Taffe, Michele Martin, Dr Janine Pickering and Professor Sarah Russell.

WATTLE was founded by four leading women, two of whom are from Swinburne: Professor Virginia Kilborn and Professor Helana Scheepers.

Swinburne is represented on WATTLE’s Steering and Organising Committee by Professor Kilborn, Professor Scheepers and Business Partner and Business Readiness Manager, Nicola Howard. 

Professor Scheepers says developing a program for professional staff is important because there are some differences in the challenges that professional women face in the university sector.

“Engaging both academic and professional women will assist with the development of an effective network across the university.”

“The program empowers the participants to self-initiate and break down the known inhibitors to career progression,” Professor Scheepers adds.

All participants will be invited to the Alumni Symposia, which will be held every two years to provide further opportunity to network. The first event is planned for 2020.

Growing a network of engaged female leaders will be a key strength of the program in the future.

Ms Howard says providing opportunities for WATTLE alumni to continue to engage is a priority for the committee.

“Being part of the committee has enabled me to create opportunities for collaboration across the sector with both professional and academic staff,” she says.

The next program for academic women will run in November this year.

There are eight participating universities across Australia, including La Trobe, Griffith, RMIT, Deakin, Curtin, ANU and Murdoch.