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Dr Jo Van Son with Professor Peter Dawkins Vice-Chancellor and President

Dr Jo van Son has spent a significant part of her career ensuring the success of others.

In her role as Director, Centre for Student Success, Jo has helped countless students and graduates navigate their professional lives through mentoring and career coaching.

Since March however, Jo has been working closely with Vice-Chancellor and President Peter Dawkins (AO) as part of the 2018 Senior Women’s Shadowing program.

The initiative, facilitated by Diversity and Inclusion, is an action of the University’s Gender Equity Strategy. Implementation of the Strategy is overseen by the Gender Equity Committee, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. One of the aims of the Strategy is to ensure women develop their careers at Victoria University, and the Shadowing Program as Jo says, is a way to “Get more women at the table”.

Senior women were invited to apply for the program in a competitive process and 12 were selected and matched with a member of the Senior Executive Group. "Shadowing is different from mentoring. It gives us the opportunity to experience and reflect on what a senior executive does day-to-day,” said Jo.

Jo was interested in finding out more about governance and strategic leadership, how the Vice-Chancellor balances his internal and external commitments and how he manages a workload that keeps him busy from 7.30am until after 10pm.

“It’s been a unique career opportunity,” says Jo. “I’ve been able to attend meetings I normally wouldn't be invited to and I’ll admit, they can be a little intimidating. What stands out however is the brilliant women in these meetings! I have particularly enjoyed getting to know Gaye Hamilton (Deputy Chancellor) and watching Rhonda Hawkins in action”.

Between March and August, Jo has shadowed the VC across a range of meetings with government, community and industry organisations as well as internal meetings such as Senior Executive Group (SEG) and one-on-one regular meetings.

“Shadowing only works, especially at this level, when people help create access and the VC’s office has been very accommodating and inclusive in getting me into the most interesting meetings. In a funny way, as I have learnt more about what the VC does every day, you end up being an advocate for the person you're shadowing. Since participating in the initiative, I can say I have a different regard for the VC and the support team that surrounds him.”

The 2018 Senior Women’s Shadowing program is a pilot program and a first for the University. An evaluation will be conducted at the end of August.

“Shadowing has provided me with a much greater understanding of the broader University context. The most powerful part of the program however, has been the opportunity to reflect on these experiences with the other women in the program and make sense of the complexities of senior leadership, gender and equity.”

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