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Women's History Month: Kingston University professors and associate professors discuss career experiences, impact of their research and advice for next generation

Posted Friday 26 March 2021

Women's History Month: Kingston University professors and associate professors discuss career experiences, impact of their research and advice for next generation

Women working in senior academic roles across Kingston University have shared details of their research and how it has been making a difference as part of the University's Women's History Month and International Women's Day celebrations. Alongside this, the academics discussed the importance of work to ensure more women professors and associate professors are supported through their careers, as well as offering advice for female students and early career researchers working towards promotion.

Professor Ilaria FavrettoProfessor Ilaria Favretto

Ilaria Favretto - Professor of Contemporary European History

"My main research interests lie in contemporary European cultural and social history, and social movements, with my most recent work focusing on the cultural analysis of protest and collective action. 

"One of the most fulfilling aspects of my career has been my research and seeing my work filling gaps in knowledge and helping understand our past better. I also take lot of pride and satisfaction from teaching. My biggest joy is when I see students getting passionate about particular topics because of something I taught them. 

"The gender balance of the female professoriate has been improving over recent years but it is indeed unfinished business. We need more female professors to send a signal to female students that they can think big, whatever career they will be choosing. More women in senior roles will also help close the gender pay gap, enhance the diversity and inclusivity of our learning environment and make universities' management across the sector more attentive to women's needs and concerns."

Dr Baljit Kaur ThattiDr Baljit Kaur Thatti

Dr Baljit Kaur Thatti, associate professor in Forensic & Analytical Chemistry

"All the literature and statistics point to the lack of females that make up the workforce within STEM subjects, and even more so the absence of women in senior academic roles. However, I believe you can only make a difference to these statistics if you create and take opportunities yourself. Being a woman in science is satisfying, but being a woman representing an ethnic minority is even more of an honour.

"My research focusses on how different scientific techniques can be used to analyse a range of different materials, whether they are lenses inserted within the eye, or evidence found at a crime scene. I have also used this expertise to come up with new and exciting ways for younger women to get involved in science via outreach.  Having designed and delivered activities that enable younger girls to understand the rewarding role that scientists play in evidence analysis within the laboratory allows gender stereotypes of who wears a white lab coat to be challenged.

"During these challenging Covid times, it is even more important for more women to be actively encouraged and supported to apply for promotions, and to create a larger pool of role models for the next generation. While I was applying to the role of associate professor, I told myself not to shy away from my successes and turned to a senior female role model - a mentor on the Beyond Barriers scheme - and a senior male role model to gain critical feedback. My advice to any female looking to apply for promotion would be to not underestimate your achievements- what you perceive as a small thing may actually be a jigsaw piece that creates a larger picture and impactful outcome."

Professor Mary ChambersProfessor Mary Chambers

Mary Chambers, Professor of Mental Health Nursing

"Over the past 15 years my nursing work and research has focused on making the skills of mental health nursing visible and measurable and doing so in partnership with mental health service users. I have been lucky spending all my working life in nursing both as a registered general nurse and a mental health nurse, mainly the latter. Many of the roles and positions I have held have been 'a first' in mental health nursing, beginning as one of the first five nurses in the UK to become qualified as nurse behaviour therapists. As a result of this education, I learned the importance of therapeutic engagement, measurement and that it was possible to demonstrate that nursing interventions could make a difference.

"This knowledge and experience led me over the past 15 years to develop the first tool capable of measuring the impact of registered mental health nursing interactions on service user recovery. The therapeutic engagement questionnaire (TEQ) developed in partnership with mental health service users has been implemented in several health care Trusts in England, translated into four languages, and used internationally.

"Mental health nursing offers amazing career opportunities. It has given me the privilege and chance to meet amazing individuals and travel the world. While opportunities do exist there is also the 'sticky floor' for women in mental health nursing. Generally nursing remains largely a female profession (89 per cent) but men hold approximately 20 per cent of top positions and the best paid jobs - nothing has changed in the last 10 years or even longer. We need more influential female leaders in mental health nursing and we are getting there."

Professor Maria MartiniProfessor Maria Martini

Maria Martini, Professor of Multimedia Communications

"I perform interdisciplinary research aiming at guaranteeing that users have an adequate quality of experience when they use a multimedia service or system. I also work on novel forms of visual data representation, such as neuromorphic visual sensors which imitate the way the human retina works and light field imaging which represents reality in holographic form.

"I like applying the results of my research in areas where we can see immediate benefits, such as in medicine, telemedicine and telesurgery, and am pleased to see how some of these are being used in the digitally supported world we are living through as a result of Covid-19. I am involved in international societies including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).  I believe it is important for professors, and academics in general, to get involved in international activities, particularly those that support younger generations.

"Within IEEE, we reward excellence and promoting gender equality and avoiding gender bias is an important element in the awards committees I am part of or chair. It was mainly thanks to its women members that some IEEE conference committees now include a diversity and inclusion chair as well as initiatives such as funding for childcare to support participation in conferences. My view is that more women in professorial roles will definitely be beneficial, both in enabling diverse perspectives in research and teaching and in providing more role models for the next generations of learners and researchers.

"I am so happy when former students let me know of their achievements in their career and in some cases - mainly women - that they chose it after seeing me. Supporting flexible working conditions for both men and women is so important. We have addressed it within our Athena SWAN award team and within my research group this has always been a priority for me. I have also been lucky enough to benefit from it myself when needed."

Irene Tuffrey-WijneIrene Tuffrey-Wijne

Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, Professor of Intellectual Disability and Palliative Care 

"How can we best support people with intellectual disabilities, or learning disabilities as it's known in the UK, at the end of life, when they're dying, when they are bereaved? That has been my research area for the past 20 years. I am a nurse by background. When I started working at the University in 2001, nothing was known about the needs of this group of people. My realisation that this mattered came from my clinical experience, working first with people with learning disabilities - many of whom faced bereavement, several died - and then in a hospice, where people with learning disabilities were utterly unrepresented. 

"Twenty years and many studies later, I am no longer the only one realising that this topic matters. Since becoming the world's first professor of Intellectual Disability & Palliative Care in 2018, I have said nothing new, but I found that people are listening. It is a professor's role to profess, and to stand on the Chair they've been given. I see it as my job to draw attention to the needs of one of the most vulnerable groups in society, give them a voice, tell other professionals, policy makers and academics what we know and what we should think about - or change - next.

"As a professor, I need to base this on sound scientific evidence, so doing robust research remains important. What excites me is trying to find new ways, all the time, of including people with learning disabilities in those efforts. It is not just women who are under-represented in academia. I'm delighted that we have just employed a research assistant with learning disabilities at the University."  

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