Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in the University of Melbourne's annual Women in Science (formerly Women in Physics – WIP) weekend getaway. I was invited to talk about my career path and to serve as a mentor for a new bunch of eager young women scientists. Not surprisingly we had a lot of fun. The first time I attended WIP was way back in 1997 (yes that's twenty years ago, if you can believe it?!) when I was a 3rd year undergrad in Physics. I remember getting a lift up to Daylesford with Virginia Kilborn (@astrogin); an Honours or PhD student at the time, and now a Professor in Astrophysics at Swinburne University of Technology and President of the Astronomical Society of Australia. I also remember being really timid and a little bit in awe of the women who talked about their careers. It might possibly have been the first time I realised that you really could have a career as an astronomer, as opposed to being a lecturer who just happened to teach astrophysics.
This year's cohort were just like me 20 years ago; somewhat overwhelmed by all the discussion, not really knowing what they wanted to do in the long-term, let alone where they were heading now, and dealing with all the negative things we told them about being a women in science. I can't help but feel like we ought to have focussed on the many wonderful reasons we put ourselves through PhDs and academic careers. Having said that we did have a lot of fun (dinner, drinks, boardgames, bike rides), and everything we talked about was really useful and productive.