Brock researchers share expertise, insights on International Women’s Day

When Susan Drake launched her academic career three decades ago, women researchers were a rarity “in a male-dominated academic environment.”

The Professor in Brock University’s Department of Educational Studies reached out to several of her women colleagues to share their experiences of feeling like an “imposter,” which they eventually published in their 1993 paper, “Collaborative reflection through story: towards a deeper understanding of ourselves as women researchers.”

“Looking back at my initial fears, I remember how often I felt like an imposter as a woman researcher,” says Drake. “Today, my research is recognized internationally in my field.”

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

“Brock University is home to extraordinary women researchers who are leading the way in their respective fields and creating positive change in our communities, both locally and globally,” says Associate Vice-President Michelle McGinn.

“They are helping to shape a better future for us all,” she says.

Twelve faculty members at Brock, many whose research directly or indirectly touches upon women, shared their work and thoughts on International Women’s Day:

Robyn Bourgeois, Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, researches violence against Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous women’s anti-violence resistance. She is particularly interested in understanding how Indigenous women transform trauma into leadership.

“As a life-long Indigenous feminist activist, research has always been one of the most important strategies I have in my toolbox for demanding justice and driving meaningful social change,” she says.

Kareen Brown, Associate Professor, Accounting and Director, CPA Ontario Centre for Public Policy and Innovation in Accounting, examines how managerial incentives influence CEOs’ financial reporting and corporate disclosure decisions. These incentives can come from components of their compensation package, such as severance agreements, yearly bonuses, post-retirement opportunities, requirements to hold a minimum amount of their firm’s stock or changes the government makes in accounting regulations.

“I examine whether managerial incentives cause CEOs to manage the firm’s earnings reports and commit fraud or change how they operate the firm in ways that benefit or hurt its investors,” she says.

Christine Daigle, Professor, Philosophy and Director, Posthumanism Research Institute, studies Western philosophical thought, particularly how sex and gender impacts one’s experiences and understandings of the world and challenging the idea that “the human” is superior to, and separate from, non-humans and the natural environment. Her recent research explores notions of “vulnerability,” including environmental vulnerability, and argues for the necessity to relate to others in a care-full manner given that we are both ethically responsible and able to respond to their needs.

“Embracing a material feminist perspective is essential to building better relations among humans, nonhumans and the Earth system and is the key to building equitable futures,” she says.

Susan Drake, Professor, Department of Educational Studies, researches educational reform through curriculum design and classroom assessment from kindergarten to Grade 12. She also investigates how storytelling brings about personal and professional transformation.

“My false perceptions of being an ‘imposter’ fell to the wayside when I followed my own path regardless of other people’s advice,” she says.

Teju Herath, Professor, Information Systems, studies information security and privacy issues. She notes that while cybersecurity is “one of the hottest and fastest-growing fields in technology,” trends indicate there is a general shortage of skills in this area.

“Women’s representation in the cybersecurity field is even more scant; by engaging in teaching and research in this area, it is my hope to inspire a few along the way,” she says.

Jasneet Kaur, Assistant Professor, Physics, and cross-appointed in the new Yousef Haj-Ahmad Department of Engineering, specializes in the design, fabrication and engineering of nanostructured materials. She investigates the physical, chemical and electrochemical properties of these materials for interdisciplinary applications such as clean energy storage and conversion technologies, antimicrobial coatings and water treatment.

“It is disappointing to see that women are significantly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, such as physics and engineering; it is my passion to close that gap and inspire more young women to pursue careers in science and technology fields,” she says.

Julie Koudys, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Disability Studies, believes research with under-serviced populations, such as those with disabilities, is one of the most effective ways to improve clinical practice and service delivery. Her research strives to identify how best to empower mothers in supporting their child’s development, such as helping their child sleep better or communicate more effectively.

“As a community-engaged researcher in the field of disability studies, I’m inspired by the dedicated women I encounter, from researchers investigating better ways to support families, to clinicians implementing empirically supported interventions, to mothers participating in research to support their child’s development,” she says.

Connie Schumacher, Assistant Professor of Nursing, focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating models of care for home-care populations and patients transitioning between care settings. She is exploring the potential use of computer-generated decision support tools that identify caregivers — most of whom are women — at risk for caregiver burden.

“The women in my life taught me that my voice and perspective are worthy of being shared and heard; I have taken this lesson and applied it to my research, empowering others through the simple act of listening,” she says.

Sarah Stang, Assistant Professor, Game Studies, examines the representation of marginalized identities in video games, focusing on how games can better include players who have historically been alienated from the medium and industry. Her work has largely focused on how video games position women and how problematic, stereotypical and harmful portrayals reflect misogyny within game cultures and broader societies.

“Women play games just as much as men, yet they rarely get to see themselves as the heroes. We need more women making games, leading the industry and telling their stories through interactive media,” she says.

Leanne Taylor, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, researches post-secondary access for under-represented students, critical and anti-racism education, and social justice interventions in teaching. A key part of this work explores how gender-based discrimination is amplified by, and intersects with, all forms of discrimination, whether based on race, age, class, physical or mental ability, gender or sexual identity, religion or ethnicity.

“As a woman, mother, scholar and educator, I draw inspiration from feminist activists and abolitionists, such as Angela Davis, who said: ‘You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world — and you have to do it all the time,’” she says.

Liette Vasseur, Professor, Biological Sciences; UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: from local to global, links together issues such as community-based ecosystem management, climate change adaptation and resilience, sustainable agriculture and rural communities. She works on women in STEM and gender issues in developing countries, analyzing the challenges and creating strategies to improve women’s equality.

“As a woman in science but also a person working in rural communities in developing countries, I notice much work remains to be done to engage discussion not only with women but also with men and, especially, the younger generation; they can enable changes,” she says.

Wendy Ward, Professor, Kinesiology, Editor-in-Chief, Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, studies how diet and bioactives in foods can lead to stronger, healthier bones and protect against fractures. She notes that women are two times more likely to fracture a hip than men, and 80 per cent of those living with diagnosed osteoporosis are women.

“Create a network of mentors, emulate their leadership strengths and pursue research that truly excites you, while remaining open to the unexpected opportunities that provide rewarding experiences, such as working with community groups or publishing,” she says.

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