Women in Science
Role models, mentors and sponsors
Video clip: Barbara had people who sponsored her, who put her name forward, and who encouraged her to apply for positions when she lacked the confidence to promote herself.
Did you have a, a mentor at that stage who encouraged you or just informal encouragement?
No. I had a lot of encouragement actually, both from my head of department and from another senior person in the department that was really responsible for most of the research that was going on in the department at the time. And this person who was then retired became a, a really a very good mentor and also a very good friend to me. He, he died in 1998 and I still miss him.
So was having a mentor quite crucial to your career do you think?
Yes. I’m not sure that you can describe these people as mentors in the same way we now consider mentorship, which is very much like you pick up someone from a list and say, ‘You’ll be my mentor.’ You know, this is a different type of mentorship. You know, it means you’re working in an environment and the people in that environment decide that you’re worth the effort of investing on you and they’re trying to promote your career and they become also your sponsor, not just your mentor.
And I think that was very important for me at that point in time. Very, very important.
By sponsor, do you mean they’re putting their names on applications for grant funding and that sort of thing?
It means something even more. You know, it’s just writing letter where you say, this is really a good person and you should employ her or, or give her this fellowship, in the case of the College. Is also giving you the confidence of applying that you are good enough to put yourself forward. Is talking to other people favourably about you. You know, that’s what I mean. It’s not just, you know, I have a problem I come to you and you may be able to say something that is or is not of any use to me. You know, it’s something much more specific and I think that’s what everybody needs at the beginning of their career really, rather than, you know, the mentorship as we have it now.