Dr Siân Halcrow
Most important on this journey was my academic mentor, who was my PhD supervisor and postdoctoral mentor. My mentor built up a positive research group by helping her students and staff up the ladder. She was fair in work distribution, a strong advocate for those in her group, and was always first to put forward her group members for their own advancement. As an academic, she was thorough and rigorous in her scholarship and feedback.
But, most of all, she CARED. I am not trying to gender leadership, and attribute a maternal nurturing approach to women, but the best leaders I have seen and worked with, both women and men, genuinely care about their group members. They see obstacles that may impede them, and work for solutions. My mentor understood my family commitments and accommodated my children in situations, including fieldwork and conferences, which is a particularly difficult issue for women in academia.
I graduated in 2007 with my PhD, and although my mentor retired in 2014, she remains supportive and a valuable sounding board. We continue to collaborate on research, and she reminds me to stick to my morals and ethics in difficult situations.
Although everyone’s leadership journey is different, as are mentor-mentee relationships, I also aspire to fulfil some of these qualities of leadership in my own practice. I hope this will work to provide a positive and less competitive environment for my research team, and that this is continued after my time.
Dr Siân Halcrow is an Associate Professor in Biological Anthropology at the University of Otago. She studies the health of infants and children from the past to inform major human transitions in prehistory. She has two children, one born during her PhD candidature, and one born early in her career.