PROFESSOR Mona Khoury-Kassabri is the first Arab woman to become dean of a faculty (social work) in Israel – an appointment that was not only important for herself, but for Israeli society, she said, at the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University “Shattering the glass ceiling” event on Sunday.
Along with the other panellists – co-founder of fashion label Camilla and Marc, Camilla Freeman-Topper, and Australia’s Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and former Federal Court judge Margaret Stone – Khoury-Kassabri has risen to great heights professionally, and cited resilience as being key to her success.
For Freeman-Topper, purpose, curiosity and a trustworthy team have helped to enable her career growth, she told the audience.
When all eyes turned to Stone, she admitted, “I think I am suffering from a bad case of imposter syndrome!” before conceding that her “ability to lie” has helped her succeed – necessitated by the fact that, in her family, girls were discouraged from attending university.
“I was supposed to be out partying and meeting a nice boy to marry, which I did too, but actually I was going to university in the evening and I lied to my parents and told them I was out partying and everybody was happy. I don’t think there is a good moral in that except that I was probably contrary, and a bit stubborn and tenacious,” remarked Stone.
While luck plays a part in success, she said “you can often make your own luck” by working hard and performing well, “so when the next thing comes along, you are ready for it. That’s not luck, that’s good management”.
Asked by the panel moderator, community and business leader Jillian Segal, to identify characteristics that enable them to adapt to a changing landscape in their respective industries, Freeman-Topper said that “making mistakes and learning from them, and getting up and moving forward is my journey”.
Discussing the importance of having a trusted adviser, Freeman-Topper expressed gratitude to her brother who is also her business partner, and her father for their guidance.
In the field of academia, mentorship is particularly important, said Khoury-Kassabri, because of the often solitary nature of researching and publishing.
Stone’s parting words for the evening were, “There are times you have to opt for serial balance and not parallel balance … There are times you have to really work hard and then you make up for it.”
Supporting groundbreaking developments in health technology at the Hebrew University, funds from the evening will be directed to research projects in health and medicine at the university.
In Victoria, meanwhile, Khoury-Kassabri held meetings with Professor Louise Harms, chair and head of the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne and members of her staff.
Reflecting on the links that Hebrew University has with other educational institutions around the world led to a discussion about the possibility of a direct Memorandum of Understanding between their respective faculties.