It’s International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is “Balance for Better”: building a gender-balanced world, not just for girls and women, but everyone.

At Chisholm, we strongly believe in balance for better. That’s because education is one of the most important ways you can achieve that balance. We know that education can change lives, and studies show that when you educate women, the benefits are profound and multigenerational.

This year, we are proud to profile two women – one a student, one a teacher – whom we believe exemplify the theme of “Balance for Better”. In her own way, each one is working towards a better, more gender-balanced world.

DR ILSA EVANS

Ilsa Evans works full time as a higher education coordinator at Chisholm, and part-time as an author. Hers has been a winding path, with employment stints in the RAAF, Army Reserves, retail, hospitality, health, community services and research, and her education includes a Bachelor (Hons) in Women’s Studies, a Graduate Diploma of Education and a PhD in Social and Political Inquiry. Along the way, Ilsa has also published fourteen books.

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“My career pathway has been more of a maze than a straightforward trajectory!” she says.

While her “maze” has led to what Ilsa considers a perfect balance of the personal and the professional, she understands from personal experience that people don’t always have a clear sense of where they want to be in future. For Ilsa, the answer lay in education and mentorship.

“I returned to education several times as a mature age student and have been extremely fortunate to have had strong female mentors at critical times,” she says. “This was especially important.”

Carving a career path is seldom easy, but for Ilsa, her greatest challenge has been the expectations she places on herself.

“I believe that women generally often suffer from ‘impostor syndrome.’ It doesn’t seem to matter how successful and/or competent they are, they second-guess their worth and their contributions. Even Michelle Obama suffers from impostor syndrome.”

The challenge, however, hasn’t stopped Ilsa from pursuing her varied career with gusto, and along the way she has learnt a lot about the value of a good, supportive team, as well as the importance of always advocating for what you think is right.

“But do so with an open mind,” she adds.

As a strong advocate for women, Ilsa’s advice to young women who want to succeed in the workplace is simple but profound.

“Look for a mentor, there are plenty of them around. Which means in turn that you should value the experiences of those who have come before you.”

RITA KARKI

Rita Karki is one of our international students. Born in Nepal, she has been in Australia for a year, and is doing a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Mechatronics). Her pursuit of excellence has attracted attention, and in 2018 she won the Youth Enterprise trophy in the Greater Dandenong Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

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The journey, however, isn’t an easy one. Studying overseas isn’t cheap, and Rita has to manage everything as an independent person, juggling work, study and homework. She also misses her family, and has to study in English, which is not her first language. It’s a busy, challenging time.

“I did work as a waitress, painter, housekeeper – I’ll be doing lots of work until the course is finished,” she says. “I sometimes get home late at night from Uni and there is no food in the cupboard!”

The challenges, however, are worth it, and she approaches them with an engineer’s pragmatism.

“You have to go through the situation to learn something. By experiencing a problem, you learn to find the right solution.”

Rita does not believe that engineering is a field that should intimidate women: the world is moving fast, and there is space and opportunity for women to make their mark.

“People assume that females shouldn’t be doing engineering but engineering is about the thinking – we can think like the boys and make things.

“I have lots of ideas for new things to make human life easier.”

To forge her place in the field, Rita strongly believes in remaining confident, making good connections, thinking positive, being prepared for any eventuality, and thinking, analysing, and choosing the right options for herself.

To young women like herself who want to succeed professionally, Rita’s advice is to set high personal standards, not feel lesser than anyone, and be strong and unafraid.

“Be confident in what you want to do and focus on your dreams with determination and direction, and choose what you like,” she says. “Happiness is the greatest thing you have to run after. And everything will be after you then.”