Postgraduate students from across Griffith University came together from the 8–10 July to identify avenues for ‘Creative Innovation Through Cross Fertilisation’ at the South Bank campus. The three day conference included presentations from two Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing-affiliated Higher Degree Research students: Kim Ball (pictured right)and Libby Sander.

Kim’s address focused on the critical methodological approach taken by her PhD research, through the development of a Network Ethnography which, as the name suggests, uses a Social Network Analysis (SNA) survey and an (eight month) ethnographic study to investigating the networks of male and female professionals in a multinational engineering consultancy (MEC) firm–in this instance, a Brisbane-based one with around 600 employees.

Entitled, ‘Who you know: female engineers and informal networks in Australia’, Kim’s study highlights the imperative for team work in engineering, particularly as a socially perceived masculine profession where networks contribute to career development. She notes however the global struggle of women “to achieve equity with their male counterparts in engineering organisations”.

Kim’s research seeks to provide these organisations, and engineering professionals themselves, with news skills and ways of operating so as to improve female engineers’ career experiences: “It is necessary to investigate the social relationships of engineers to gain a deep and rich understanding of how they develop network relations, what the perceived benefits are, and to identify the possible differences in the makeup of the networks between males and females”, she says.

Symposium attendees were further availed of Kim’s qualitative data collection methods–field note taking, co-worker observation; semi-structured interviews; and experiences in gaining access to the organisation, interviewees’ reactions to the project, and her transition between sections within the MEC–all elements of fieldwork that every researcher has to navigate!

Libby Sander’s presentation centred around her research into the role of place in increasing self-efficacy and creative performance in the workplace; research which is the subject of a three year, $105 000 AUD grant awarded Libby by the Bene Group as part of their Smart Working Spaces agenda.

The Symposium is the initiative of the Queensland College of Art and Griffith University Postgraduate Students Association.

(Story by Kim Ball, Clare Inwood)