What is biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome this?

The hurdle I faced (like many women) was my husband’s career. This took us overseas and then around Australia. I had to change employment a number of times, working in the private sector and found several opportunities in administrative roles in universities (University of Qld, James Cook, ANU and then UNSW Canberra again after twenty years).Today it seems strange to remember that people regarded a female with a PhD with suspicion and saw her as overqualified, even within a university environment. Things have changed significantly with the increase in numbers and about time!

How did your time at UNSW prepare you for this?

My time at UNSW instilled confidence, a lifelong love of learning and gave me a qualification.I was a member of a very vibrant department and colleagues were always encouraging and willing to spend time and energy mentoring. Conferences were planned most years and there were always opportunities to attend inter-state ones. I remember many a writers’ conference, a regular writers-in-residence program, prospects for publishing and meeting publishers, and even a visit by the film director Peter Weir who talked about his new film Gallipoli. Professor Heseltine always encouraged involvement in lecturing and I remember teaching The Taming of the Shrew as a feminist text to three 4th year Honours students (who loved it). Other discipline lecturers such as history would invite you to lecture to students to give them a broader background of a period. A.D. Hope, who had strong ties with the Department, was popular with students, as were their studies of Old English language and literature. One of those students, who later returned to complete a PhD in 2009, is now in Abu Dhabi and at an Embassy reception here told me recently that he has used his English degree every day of his life.Having retired recently, I can now look back and see that many facets of my early life at UNSW Canberra have prepared me for a new project that is nearly ready for publication, a biography. Strangely, it is a full circle where writers early in my career now have returned and appear in my book. Now that’s lifelong preparation.

What do you love the most about your role?

I have just finished my last role at UNSW Canberra as Executive Officer in the Rector’s Office, an office that encourages gender equity. It provided a wonderful opportunity to see the ‘big picture’ in two ways. I was privileged to work on the multi-million dollar contract that required numerous reports to the Commonwealth and a Balanced Scorecard against which our activities in the education and support areas were assessed. I also really enjoyed the school, unit and program reviews that enabled an overall perspective on the various elements that constitute a university. I was very grateful to be involved administratively in the annual cycle of improvement and also to meet so many senior academic and administrative staff from UNSW and other universities whose aim was the provision of the best possible education and support in a Go8 university.

Name a woman or women you look up to most – why do they inspire you?

Dr Dorothy Green AO (also known as the poet Dorothy Auchterlonie)Dorothy was an inspiration as an academic, scholar, critic, writer and poet. She was the first woman lecturer at Monash University, lecturing in Australian, English and American literature. At UNSW Canberra she was really loved by her students and many alumni still talk about this diminutive and inspirational lecturer. When I was on a Gender Equity Committee in 2009 it was natural for me to offer her name for consideration when there was discussion about an academic prize for women eminent in their field of research.   I worked with Dorothy a couple of times on articles and for her collection of critical essays, The Music of Love, and she was a delight. She knew so many Australian writers personally (including Patrick White) and her papers are held in the Academy Library Special Collections. I remember that during a proposal for a conference focused on Vietnam history and literature she erupted because there was no mention of the role of women. She promptly researched and delivered a paper, one of the first on the role of Australian women in the medical field.Professor Elanor HuntingtonElanor received the first Dorothy Green Award. She was Head of the School of Engineering and Information Technology at UNSW Canberra before an appointment as the first female Dean of the College of Engineering at ANU. She is one a very few women in this field in the world. Passionate about her research, she also has vast stores of energy and enthusiasm for students and their experience in both engineering and university studies. I find her inspirational as both a pioneer in a field dominated by men but also because she is a warm and giving mentor to other women. Even though I have no idea about the details of her work, she is outstanding in discussions with senior management issues, a natural leader and someone who cares deeply about education.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Read widely both in your field and on leadership and management. Take every opportunity to network both in Australia and overseas, as this is one avenue that ensures your name will be remembered.

Do you think your industry is doing enough to champion gender diversity? 

I believe that we have come a long way and there are many champions striving for change. It is a slow process sometimes and it must feel like Sisyphus with his boulder to many younger women.

Have you seen a change in gender diversity in the workplace over the last few decades?

Certainly. More to come.