Fifty50 interviewed another inspirational female to celebrate International Women’s Day! Her name is Liz Cowling, a student at ANU and Fifty50’s Brand Management Director. She started her university career studying Physics, and then followed her talents in art through obtaining a Graphic Design degree. She has had amazing experiences in the workforce as a Graphic Designer, and has worked with reputable companies such as PwC and KPMG. Now studying a Bachelor of Engineering, she has become an inspiration and truly embodied the phrase “…and yet she persisted”. Read below about her path!
- What is your role in Fifty50?
I am currently the Brand Management Director.
- What does International Women’s day mean to you?
I think it is a great day to show case the achievements of women but also to draw focus and attention to gender parity as well.
- What are you studying and why?
I am studying a Bachelor of Engineering, but how I got there is a longer answer. I had two passions growing up, art and how things work. It wasn’t even science in general, just how stuff works. That’s why I ended up doing physics in my Bachelor of Science. It was the only science I really identified with. It’s taken me a few jobs and degrees to decide Engineering is for me but I think it’s a nice balance between the two and it uses my creativity and problem solving skills.
- Why did you join Fifty50?
I like to think of it as a happy accident. I went to the first year female high tea at the start of last year when Fifty50 was new, and I joined their mentoring program. I joined more to expand network and make friends, rather than to get support; as I have had experience at University. I really supported the vision of Fifty50 and thought I would meet my kind of people, and the people I should network with. I ended up with Francesca (a founder of Fifty50) as my mentor who was fantastic, and a massive inspiration. She was really positive every time we met up, which was great because it gave me confidence that I had chosen the right degree for me. So by second semester of first year I wanted to be involved and give back, so I became their graphic designer. Now in 2017 we are expanding, hence my progression into a position as Brand Management Director.
- Throughout your years studying, do you feel as though gender equity in STEM at University has progressed since commencing your study?
Yes I think it has – there are a lot more females in my courses now in comparison to my Physics course. In my very first physics class I remember there being about four girls in my class. Now there are maybe 30% women in my cohort. You can be in a group project with about 2 or 3 girls now out of say 8 which is pretty great. But there is still a long way to go!
- What was the most important lesson you learned while working in the industry as a graphic designer?
The Graphic design industry is very different compared to industries relating to STEM. But if I look at the lessons I learnt more generally from working in industry I would say that hard work pays off, and you should never underestimate importance of networks.
- Why you are passionate about gender equity?
Basically I think that gender should not disadvantage a person from a career or a job choice. I think that anyone can be right for the job and it should be based on their technical skill and not their gender. I know unfortunately in our society women are still under represented in fields like engineering, so I feel obliged to do what I can for gender equity.
- You mentioned that you were told your two passions, science and art, didn’t ‘mix’. Having done both now, what are your latest thoughts on this idea (that they don’t mix)?
I think it’s a tricky one, obviously there have been art-scientists in the past, so I suppose it’s possible; and I do think there are aspects of art that I will be able to use in this career trajectory. However, I don’t think I will able to use them simultaneously at the same capacity as I was able to when they’re separate. But I think my creativity will be able to mesh with my problem solving skills and be useful that way.
- You have had travelled many different paths throughout your student life; what advice would you give to those who are struggling to commit to a STEM course?
I sure did! I left physics after 2 years and then went on a different career path so this really hits home. I think that the big lesson to learn is, to believe in the power of failure, because it’s the best way to learn. It’s taken me a while to learn this myself but I hope if there’s nothing else I can pass on to others it’s that if you fail, its ok. All you have to do is learn from that mistake and avoid doing it again. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail the first time.
- What advice would you give more generally to all University students?
Remember why you’re here. When you’re stressed and it’s all becoming too much, stay focused and remember what’s all for. Uni is such a small period of your life in comparison to your future career so stay focused. It’s only 4 or 5 years out of your entire life, so it’s really not that long and you can do it. Your future self will thank you.