From 2020 to 2021, Curtin University designed and delivered a high-impact Program to support Early Academic Careers (PEAC). The impetus for the program was in part to demonstrate our commitment as Athena Swan signatories and to respond to feedback from early career academics signalling the need for a targeted program of learning, development and networking to support women’s careers including provision of easier access to university information; career support; mentoring; managing competing work priorities; and cross-institutional interaction.
Twenty-four women from across Curtin were nominated by their Head of School to participate in the Program with the following learning outcomes: professional strength building; expanding cross disciplinary networks and understanding of institutional support systems; deepening understanding of the higher education landscape; and developing a three-year career plan.
After widespread consultation by the leaders of the Program the final design comprised five workshops (9 am to 3 pm to accommodate personal commitments), mentorship, peer networking and executive support. The initial 6-month structure was adjusted to accommodate restrictions from the global pandemic stretching to just under a year. The design also met our commitment to minimising information overload, encouraging individual reflection and learning and accommodating participants’ work and non-work commitments.
An evaluation survey indicated explicit and immediate impact including increased understanding of university structures and processes, enhanced professional and interpersonal skills and a stronger sense of career ownership:
Of the twenty participants who completed the Program, seven received an academic promotion and a further two were promoted to a higher rank in other universities. Many of those who had applied for promotion indicated that they would not have done so without the Program:
Other measures of success included teaching awards (2), research awards (2), leadership and innovation awards (2), and becoming an academic discipline lead (1).
While the global pandemic introduced many challenges in the design and delivery of the Program, identification and availability of mentoring partners was challenging. Scheduling meetings between mentors and mentees proved especially difficult and some participants indicated they would have preferred to select their own mentor.
The overwhelming success of the Program to Support Early Academic Careers has set a path for future progress at Curtin where we are expanding access to other cohorts. The Program is now being refined and delivered again by new facilitators and speakers and offered to both men and women early career academics. All materials and learning outcomes from design and delivery of the Program are centrally stored to ensure a sustainable suite of offerings. As a global university, we are also looking to expand the program to our global campuses.
- Dorothy Wardale, Curtin University
- Julia Richardson, Curtin University
- Julianne J. Reid, Curtin University