When Andrea Butler and Julia Sharwood were invited to attend a special Women in Leadership course in Victoria, they both jumped at the chance. They also didn't know each other prior to attending the week-long retreat, despite working at the same university.
Both women were chosen by Professors Jodie Bradby and Penny King to attend the Women ATTaining Leadership (WATTLE) course, which ANU has been involved with, as part of their accreditation initiatives for the SAGE Athena Swan gender equity program. Both Jodie and Penny attended a similar course last year for academic members within the university sector.
As the title suggests, the topic of the week-long course related to leadership, but that was just the start.
"It was focused around who we are as leaders within our own workplaces and how we can drive or be effective change leaders," says Julia, who is currently an Executive Officer for the Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine.
"It covered a couple of different aspects, not just how to attain leadership and helping other women attain leadership positions, but also how to be resilient and stay in those positions," says Andrea, who currently works as Deputy Manager of Candidature and Examinations within the University's Graduate Research Office.
"There was some really good information shared about leaders. It covered such things as how to lead once you're in a position, how to manage yourself and your diary, how to be an essentialist, how to be resilient and how to avoid things like burnout," Andrea says.
The course was held at Waurn Ponds estate, a retreat located in Victoria. And whilst it rained fairly heavily at the beginning of the week, both women say the course provided them with the chance to take time away from their busy work and home lives, so they can consider their future career directions.
"It was very important to have that freedom," says Andrea.
"In my life, I don't get much freedom so it was great to really give myself to the program and be able to let myself think. Having the luxury of that time to contemplate things and reflect on what was happening I think is what made it such a success."
"As Andrea was saying, it's not just about your work life, it's about your personal life as well. And it makes you think about how your leadership affects home as well as work and how the two interact," says Julia.
The experience has helped the two women to become a part of a network of 24 other professional staff across Australia.
"When any of these women come to Canberra, we will catch up and have a chat. If we have something that we need to have someone look at or we have a question, we now have people we can call on and ask those questions, to provide us advice," says Andrea.
"One of the participants recently got a promotion and she put it up onto our email distribution list and everyone sent words of encouragement to her. So that was really important."
Going to Victoria also brought the two together as friends - who can rely on each other as a support network within ANU.
"It was interesting learning about our journeys to get to the program and where we're up to with our career paths. It was an important part of it for me," says Julia.
Both women are hoping the University will continue to support participants to go to the Women ATTaining Leadership course so the support network of women can continue to grow.
"Julia and I have plans to catch up with Jodie and Penny to support more participation in the program," says Andrea.
"And we hope to create our own ANU alumni sub-group to connect into the whole as well. I think that's a really important part of connecting across the institutions as well."
For more information on the University's work around the SAGE Athena Swan program, visit https://services.anu.edu.au/human-resources/respect-inclusion/athena-swan