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‘Our job is to make the path easier for the next woman.’

Professor Jenni Lightowlers says one of the joys of being Deakin Law School’s (DLS) Dean is the opportunity to ‘be an enabler and have a hand in the future successes of our students’.

Speaking at the inaugural Macedon Ranges International Women’s Day Dinner on Wed 7 March, Prof. Lightowlers shared the inspiring story of her career journey that began as a secondary school teacher and transitioned to a highly-successful law career followed by academia.

‘As Dean, I have a unique opportunity to build a bridge between study and being a lawyer – whether it is in the law or applying the skills learned. We all guess at what the jobs might be in five to 10 years’ time but if we create critical, analytic and compassionate thinkers who understand the system in which we operate and who can employ that knowledge in the workforce then that is a substantial achievement,’ she said.

Appointed to the role of Dean in 2017, Prof. Lightowlers is one of Australia’s leading and most respected lawyers in the field of innovation and commercialisation and brings a wealth of legal and corporate expertise to DLS.

DLS can be considered a rare exemplar in Australian law schools with three women currently holding leading executive roles.

Working alongside Prof. Lightowlers is Deputy Dean of Law Professor Marilyn McMahon, who has a strong research profile in criminal law, criminal procedure, criminal responsibility and evidence, and Director of Research Dr Nicole Siller who specialises in criminal procedure, criminal law, international law, human trafficking and exploitation. Dr Siller is also highly-skilled and experienced prosecutor who was previously an assistant district attorney in the USA and a member of an FBI task force investigating criminal organisations. 

Training the next generation of lawyers and legal professionals, DLS is proud of its strong number of female law graduates – more than 53% – many of whom are now practising in both Australia and overseas.

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, Prof. Lightowlers said:
‘First women should not be defined by men, whether that be partners, parent or employers – we need to make our own space. Second, when we find that space and walk through the doors that open for us, we must not shut them behind us – our job is to make the path easier for the next woman.’

Deakin University was recently cited as Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

It is one of only 120 workplaces in Australia to receive this prestigious honour for 2018, marking the university’s 11th consecutive citation.

Women make up 52 per cent of Deakin’s academic staff and 67 per cent of Deakin’s professional staff and Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO said the university is committed to advancing gender equality within the University sector.

‘We are proud of the leadership, collegiality and collaboration of women at Deakin, many of whom are breaking new ground in research, scholarship and professional practice … universities are especially obliged to act, having a role not only as employers, but as educators of students and of the wider community. We have a responsibility to be fearless and lead the way.’