Brock women researchers share perceptions for International Women’s Day

When Brock University faculty member Shawna Chen first began her career as a business researcher, she wanted her work to empower women.

As the Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in Brock’s Goodman School of Business examined the dynamics of business ventures, and particularly through her studies of fledgling women entrepreneurs, she says it hit her that women are already strong, but society frequently fails to perceive or honour their strength.

Chen is among a dozen women faculty at Brock who are sharing perceptions they gained through their research to mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8.

“Brock is home to a phenomenal group of women researchers across all disciplines and at all career stages,” says Brock Associate Vice-President, Research Michelle McGinn. “I am impressed and inspired by the contributions they make to their respective fields, to the research culture at our institution, and to communities far beyond this institution.”

Following are the thoughts of 12 faculty members at Brock, most of whose research directly or indirectly touches upon women:

Shawna Chen, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, studies entrepreneurial cognition and behaviour across cultures. One of her studies explores how interaction of thoughts, actions and emotions influence early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly women and members of underrepresented groups.

“I discovered that women don’t need to be empowered: I stop telling women how to lean in like men and start engineering the systems to embrace different paths.”

Jessica Clark, Associate Professor of History, studies modern British cultural and social history, focusing on how consumption, labour and gender shaped lived experiences in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In her writings, she explores perceptions of women’s beauty and the history of smell.

“The study of women’s history means asking important questions about women’s experiences across time and place, all while forging connections and community amongst women today.”

Cathy van Ingen, Professor of Kinesiology, examines the relationship between sport, inequality, and social change with a focus on gender-based violence, trauma-informed physical activity, and sport for development and peace, among others. She is co-founder of ‘Shape Your Life,’ a free, non-contact, trauma-informed boxing program for women-identified survivors of violence.

“Scholar and activist bell hooks wrote ‘The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is — it’s to imagine what is possible.’ I see research as having the same function.”

Leah Knight, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, studies early modern poetry and prose, especially in Renaissance England. Her recent work researches the work and life experiences of women authors and readers in 16th- and 17th-century Britain.

“In early modern England, girls and women weren’t allowed to study at university, let alone teach or conduct research; I’m grateful for the stories of the many smart and interesting women of the past who, despite resistance, left their mark in history.”

Deborah McPhee, Professor of Human Resource Management researches vulnerable employees pertaining to the career transitioning of aging workers, the attraction and retention of Indigenous employees in mainstream business, young and older workers health and safety, and migrant workers in the cannabis industry. One of her current projects involves working with a team of researchers on violence against women and the promotion of pet friendly shelter policies.

“In an era where women were not always valued, even my own father didn’t feel it necessary for women to pursue higher education, hence it took me 20 years to complete my undergraduate degree part-time.”

Dolana Mogadime, Professor of Educational Studies, is interested in how women teachers are making history in everyday acts that work toward improving the lives of other women and girls across races, genders, classes, and geographical boundaries. She researches how teachers can use intergenerational examples through oral histories or ‘herstories’ and narrative study.

“Amplifying the voices of women who have and are making a difference to society is a singular most meaningful dedication of my life as a researcher.”

Joyce Mgombelo, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, researches how the mind understands, processes and uses mathematics in everyday life, and how teachers can best teach mathematics to their students. One of her projects, improving mathematical literacy among children in Tanzania, involves making mathematics teaching and learning more gender sensitive.

“It is imperative that mathematics education researchers and stakeholders move to a more equitable and informed view of mathematics learning that sees girls and women as being fully capable of understanding and applying mathematics in their everyday lives and in their work.”

Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy, Associate Professor of Nursing researches cardiac health focusing on women and men’s heart health and gendered approaches to symptom management and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Through arts-based research creations-with the use of poetry, paintings and other art forms, she raises awareness of women’s symptoms and experience of heart disease, which can often be very different compared to men.

“Courageous and honourable women in my life have taught me that no matter how you choose to bring equality, justice, dignity and hope into the world, do it with your heart, mind, body and spirit-where all human flourishing is celebrated.”

Beatrice Ombuki-Berman, Interim Chair of the New Department of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science Specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI), researches the efficient design, development and application of computational intelligence algorithms for large-scale optimization problems. She is also interested in the Ethics of AI, with a special focus on algorithmic bias and inequality.

“Women are vastly underrepresented in the Artificial Intelligence field. It’s my passion to close that gap, especially given the exponential growth of AI everywhere.”

Shauna Pomerantz, Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies, has research interests that include media, youth, girlhood, popular culture, gender and education, and feminist theories. She and her 13-year-old daughter Miriam explore the importance of TikTok and other social media in the lives of children and youth.

“When I asked Miriam why feminism matters to her, she said ‘I think it’s the right thing to believe in and sometimes girls don’t have a lot of power and feminism gives us a sense of power, that we can do something together to make it better.’”

Rebecca Raby, Professor of Child and Youth Studies, is interested in how we view childhood and youth, particularly their voice, agency and being participants in their families, peer groups, schools, online and in their first jobs. She also focuses on inequalities in young lives, especially in relation to age, gender, sexuality, race and class.

“We need to be attentive to the diversity of girlhoods and the role of inequality especially in shaping girls’ lives; we must balance between recognizing hardships and injustice in girls’ lives while always recognizing their strengths and their related interconnections with others.”

Gaynor Spencer, Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of Neuroscience, researches how cells of the nervous system (neurons) form their connections with each other during development, and how changes in these neuronal connections play a role in learning and memory.

“As women scientists, we can occasionally be our own worst critic, so when difficulties arise, and they do for everyone, don’t stop believing in yourself, stay confident and most importantly, have some fun along the way.”

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