Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Melina Georgousakis, Founder & Director of Franklin Women

Melina Georgousakis is the founder & director of Franklin Women, the first professional community for women working in health and medical research related careers in Australia.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am a medical research scientist by training. I was researching new ways to deliver vaccines which is very relevant to all going on right now!

I now work in the Bupa Health Foundation, a corporate charity that invests in partnerships that have the potential to improve community health.

While navigating my career in this sector I realised that many women I worked with were dropping out – such a loss of talent – so I founded my own social enterprise called Franklin Women which has a mission to create a health and medical research ecosystem where women can thrive!

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My day starts with the morning family hustle to get the kids ready and off to care. I then usually get a coffee and spend 30 minutes doing Franklin Women emails and socials to keep things moving before I clock on for my day-job at Bupa.

Here I am meeting with entrepreneurs, research scientists and charities to talk through potential partnerships or manage current ones to ensure we can support them to have the greatest impact on health.

There are many internal meetings relating to communications and health policy activities as well as reporting requirements we have as a charity. I love the variety of who I get to work with at the Foundation.

Then I walk home (my incidental exercise) to get the kids if hubby can’t, dinner (over a wine) and after the kids are asleep I get to work on some of the bigger Franklin Women activities that need thinking or writing time. I try to end the day with a Smiling Mind meditation to switch off my brain before sleep!

3) What are some of the key things you are working on at the moment at Franklin Women?

We just launched our 5 year Impact Report which was a milestone for me personally and the organisation, given it is a passion project led primarily by volunteers.

Despite this we have grown to meet the needs of women in our sector and have had quite a profound impact on their careers and lives but have never really captured this well.

In the report we enlisted the help of a journalist and a graphic designer to bring these stories of impact to life, which we called #TheFWEffect. It was such an empowering experience as these women have done such fantastic work and deserve to be invested in.

We are also planning new ways to deliver some of our activities for next year. As we are primarily in Sydney, COVID-19 provided us with an opportunity to access more women in our sector by taking our initiatives online. We now have new tech skills and understanding about what works and what doesn’t and hope to do more hybrid (virtual and face to face) activities next year.

4) What does work-life balance mean to Franklin Women and how does your organisation support women working in science manage this in their careers, particularly through COVID-19?

This year has been pretty tricky for our sector (like most) as many of the Franklin Women community are directly involved in the COVID-19 response, either as frontline health workers or as research scientists who understand how the virus works and how to treat it/prevent it, or are part of the public health response.

At the same time, women across the board have tended to assume more caring responsibilities this year, whether it be kids or other family members. So, work life balance often comes second.

Acknowledging this, we actually took a break from our professional development activities so as to not add another thing on the to-do list for the FW Community, rather we did other things to keep the community spirit alive.

Like starting a FW Spotify list on FB, creating a closed FB group for people to connect and repurposing our travel scholarship to a COVID Carer’s support scholarship where we awarded Dinner Ladies vouchers to members of our community who needed a bit of reprieve.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I have a few podcasts that I love.

Side hustlers with Carla Marie – hearing how other people manage their side hustles motivates me, especially on the days I feel like I am dropping balls.

Another go-to is the Future Women podcast, Next Generation Innovators, which brings you stories of entrepreneurs from varied sectors. I always learn something no matter who is being interviewed.

I always find books based on recommendations from the STEMMinist Book Club on Twitter, founded by a friend and colleague, A/Prof Caroline Ford. As a feminist and a scientist, what is not to love!! (Link @stemminist)

6) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I got an Apple Watch for my birthday this year and I love it. I can tuck my phone out of sight which prevents me from obsessively checking socials or emails but at the same time I am still able to feel connected and can get calls/tell the time, etc. It has also made the amount of movement I do in a day much more visible to me so I always aim to ‘close the rings’.

We also have a Google Home which I use regularly for so many random things and has been good entertainment for the kids who want to know what sound different animals make.

7) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She is such an effective leader, while also a mum, a partner and a woman who has her own personal needs. So how she factors in work-life balance into her extreme position of leadership would be an interesting interview I would love to hear.

8) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

You know your body the best – and it is important to listen to it.

I sometimes get frustrated when well-meaning people tell me to ’take a break’ or ‘you are working too hard’. For me, Franklin Women is not work, it is fun. Though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get stressful at times and I can get overwhelmed.

I have become very attuned to my body and so when I start to feel that happening I plan for time out and schedule in activities that help me turn off and regroup. Whether that be a weekend away with the family, dinner with girl friends or even a massage or hike with no technology around me.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.