2017 She Leads High – 5 Quick Questions with Francesca Maclean

3 October 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

The inaugural She Leads High Conference is a one-day leadership event for young women, including female identifying and non-binary people, in years 9 and 10. The event will take place at the University of Canberra’s Ann Harding Conference Centre on 28 November 2017.

In this interview, we talk to Francesca Maclean, a keynote at the upcoming High Conference. Francesca is the 2017 ACT Young Woman of the Year, the Co-Founder of Fifty50, a consult for Arup, and has recently completed her PhD in engineering that focused on designing biomaterials for brain repair. Francesca is also one of 30 women selected as part of Science & Technology’s Superstars of STEM program, which aims to change the face of STEM. Francesca hopes to influence the next generation of scientists to make STEM a more inclusive and diverse environment for everyone.

Describe your leadership journey in 30 words or less.

It has been fun and challenging filled with a lot of reflecting!

What was (or is) your biggest leadership challenge?

My biggest leadership challenge is an internal one – managing myself. I am a passionate champion of change so we can achieve gender equity (particularly in STEM) and I couldn’t be removed from it if I tried (I am a woman in STEM). So, managing my expectations and goals for change as I am trying to navigate an imperfect system for my own career whilst at the same time trying to change/disrupt/improve it for women (and therefore all genders) is currently my biggest leadership challenge. Finding time to recharge, reflect, and know that it is a marathon and not a sprint is how I am trying to manage this challenge!

Why do we need more women leaders, and what difference can women in leadership make in terms of gender equality?

We need more women leaders because it is not acceptable that 50% of our population is not represented in positions of power and leadership where key decisions are made about our community, country, and world. Having women in leadership develops visibility that young girls and women can see what they can be, which can encourage them in their own journey. We also need all genders to change how we think of leadership to be more inclusive and accepting of different leadership styles – and appreciate the strength in our differences.

What book should every aspiring woman leader read?

Feminist Fight Club – a great empowering read full of tips and tricks and a sizeable evidence base!

Share with us the best piece of advice you’ve been given.

When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do post-PhD, I was told: don’t think about what you want to do *for the rest of your life* (daunting, much?), instead think about what you want your next phase of growth to be. That helped reframe my thinking and goals and pointed me in the direction of getting exposure to private industry, which is where I am now.

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