Meet 7 superwomen of arts and social sciences

15 February 2018

Thursday 8 March is International Women's DayInternational Women's Day, a day that celebrates the social, economic, educational, cultural and political achievements of women all around the world.

The annual day aims to promote and accelerate gender equity, and to value the contributions of women and men equally.

At the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, we are grateful for the many inspiring, creative and intelligent female students, alumni and employees that are supportive of progressing gender parity in our community and beyond.

Here are a few of our many bright and progressive female academics and researchers that we are proud to share with you.

Find out more about them - what motivates them, who inspires them, what advice they have for other women, and their proudest career achievement.

Meet Associate Professor Agnieszka Tymula

School of Economics

Associate Professor Agnieszka Tymula is a neuroeconomist and experimental economist studying how individuals make decisions. She is particularly fascinated by the behaviour behind irrational decision-making. Her goal is to relate insights from her research to applied work, especially in the area of policy interventions, optimal organisational and incentives design, finance, political economics and marketing.

1. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

While working on my PhD I had two kids. I knew no female professors with children and was really stressed out about my career perspectives with the overwhelming lack of role models. I wish I could tell my younger self that it is all going to be all right. By no means easy and sometimes really challenging, but it will be all right.

2. Who is your role model and why?

I am really impressed by my grandma who was born in 1930 in the country side in Poland. She lived through war and a period of time when Poland was not even on the map and she would get beaten at school if she spoke Polish. Nevertheless, she was extremely driven. She was the first one in her family to go to university and became a very successful lawyer. She brought my dad up by herself while working long hours and without help from family who lived far away. She is 87 now and we regularly talk on Skype. When I am in Poland we enjoy a drink - gin and tonic is her favourite.

3. What has been your proudest career highlight?

I have two of these and both happened last year. One was when I was invited to deliver a keynote address at the Economic Science Association Meeting in Vienna. The other when I received the Society for Neuroeconomics Early Career Award in recognition of my contributions to the understanding of decision-making.

Meet Associate Professor Megan Mackenzie

School of Social and Political Sciences

Associate Professor Megan Mackenzie's work focuses on two questions - how do women contribute to and experience war, and what kinds of gendered conflicts and insecurities continue after war?

One of her research projects analyses the politics of the decision to open combat roles to women in Australia, Canada, the US, and New Zealand. In 2017, Megan interviewed the first classes of women to graduate from infantry training in the US and for the next 10 years will continue to work with them.

1. What drives you to do work in this field and what do you love about it?

I believe one of the ways wars can be limited is by telling different stories about war, and conducting research that examines war from alternative perspectives. My desire to see less war and violence drives my research. Another big driver and source of inspiration is students. Teaching and learning from students is energizing and motivating. For example, I just revised my Gender, Security and Human Rights course outline and I can hardly wait to hear what students think about the readings and the case studies we will examine.

2. What piece of advice would you give to a woman looking to begin a career in your field?

Spend time being honest and brave about what you want your intellectual contribution to be and then work hard every day to make it. Don't just identify 'gaps' in the field or literature - that will never be satisfying. Form strong horizontal networks with people you absolutely trust and make sure you are a person they can trust. These networks will see you through many career highs and lows. Never ever compromise your integrity, your ethics, or your sense of compassion to get 'ahead' - it's just not worth it.

3. Tell us about one of your proudest career moments

Finishing and launching my second book felt particularly good. I wrote it when my first son was little and hardly ever slept, and I was worried my career and my brain was in trouble. At the launch, I was pregnant with my second child and the room was full of people I cared about and who helped me in some way.

Meet Professor Glenda Sluga

School of Philosophical and Historical Enquiry

Professor Glenda Sluga is Professor of International History, and ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow. She has published widely on the cultural history of international relations, internationalism, the history of European nationalisms, sovereignty, identity, immigration and gender history. At the moment, her work focuses on two particular issues: the role that international organisations play in the governance of environmental and economic issues.

1. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Speak up!

2. If you could have dinner with three women (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

So many women, but my obsession for a long time has been Germaine de Staƫl, who was regarded as one of the great powers of Europe, and the nemesis of Napoleon Bonaparte. I've always wanted to write a movie about her. She was so smart, and influential, and always spoke up!

The other two would be Julia Gillard, because she actually represented the area I grew up in, but I've never met her, and Hilary Clinton because my other obsession is women diplomats. She would also have lots of great stories about international relations.

3. What career advice would you give to a young woman?

The world's your oyster. Think big and put yourself in the world.

Meet Dr Alana Mann

School of Literature, Art, and Media

Dr Alana Mann's teaching and research focuses on how ordinary citizens get voice in policy debates regarding problems such as food security and climate change. Her work involves the social movement activism of small-scale food producers and eaters opposed to the industrial food system.

1. What inspires you to do work in this field?

Globally, crises of rural dispossession, human health, and climate change are driven by an undemocratic food regime geared to corporate profit. We need alternatives.

2. If you could have dinner with three women (dead or alive), who would they be?

  • Rachel Carson, author of 'Silent Spring'
  • Ursula Le Guin, feminist and sci-fi author
  • Lesley Bright, who is my mother and who never had my opportunities and gave me mine, selflessly.

3. What has been your proudest career highlight?

Reading the first UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Zeigler's preface to my book Global Activism in Food Politics.

Meet Janelle Evans

Sydney College of the Arts

Janelle Evans is a contemporary artist and filmmaker. She is interested in print and photographic history and her research is mainly centred on early colonial representations of first contact encounters in Australia as well as visual and pictorial representations of Aboriginal women during the 19th century.

1. What inspires you to do work in this field?

I was inspired to work in this field after reading books by academics Kay Schaeffer and Jane Lydon, who researched how photographic images and newspaper accounts of Aboriginal women in the nineteenth century were highly constructed to create a fabricated myth of transgressiveness that has penetrated deep into the Australian consciousness.

2. If you could have dinner with three women (dead or alive), who would they be?

My 4x great grandmother Elizabeth Rymes Everingham who was a convict on the Second Fleet. She played a pivotal role as founder of a huge dynasty in this country. Her thousands of descendants are truly multicultural and include Dharug, Thai, Greek, Hungarian, Anglo-Celtic and many other cultures. She brought her children up to contribute their best and amongst her descendants we find politicians, scientists, doctors, thespians, academics and sports stars as well as the many others who contribute to their local communities.

Germaine Greer - I've always been fascinated by Germaine Greer, by her towering intellect, her contribution to feminism and her willingness to push boundaries.

Eleanor Roosevelt - She contributed so much to American society not only as the wife of a president, but in her own right by effecting changes to law particularly in relation to underage marriage.

3. Tell us about your proudest career moment?

This would definitely be seeing my students graduate with their degrees and go on to achieve their goals in their careers.

Also, being the first Fine Art postgraduate student to receive the HS Carslaw Memorial Scholarship to study at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge and being a recipient of the Charles Perkins AO, memorial prize, University of Sydney, and a finalist in the Graduate Medal, University of Sydney.

Meet Associate Professor Rebecca Suter

School of Languages and Cultures

Associate Professor Rebecca Suter's research involves International Comparative Literature and Asian Cultural Studies, with a particular focus on Japan. Her first book, The Japanization of Modernity, focused on contemporary Japanese writer Murakami Haruki, and his role as a cultural mediator between Japan and the United States, as well as on his use of meta-fictional techniques.

1. What drives you to do work in this field and what do you love about it?

I am interested in how the case of Japan helps us complicate western-centric models of postcolonialism and globalisation. I am also interested in how literary theory gives us instruments to analyse human experience and its textually mediated nature. I love that I get to read, write, and travel to Japan for a living. And I love Japan.

2. What is your all-time favourite quote?

"I am not hung up on being called a freshwoman because it's clearly gender neutral. Anything else would sound silly. Luke, male freshwoman." From the Facebook account Man Who Has It All.

3. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

One day, you will be standing in a classroom and teach students about the Japanese animations that you are watching today.

Meet Associate Professor Amy Wright

Sydney School of Education and Social Work

Amy Conley Wright is an Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies. Her teaching, research, and practice experiences are in the areas of child advocacy, child and family policy, family support, and child maltreatment prevention, within Australia and internationally.

1. What inspires you to do work in this field?

I'm motivated from a sense of children's vulnerability and need for safe and stable care. We know that adverse childhood experiences, including maltreatment, are a major contributor to personal and social problems. Intervening early and supporting families is critical for improving children's lives as well as society overall.

2. What is your all-time favourite quote?

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." - American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It follows on from my inspiration to work in this field and is a reminder that resilience is not just a catch phrase of the 21st century - investing in children's wellbeing pays off, and a smart society looks after the wellbeing of children.

3. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Having a supportive partner is about the most important life and career decision that a woman can make. I'm very lucky to have a husband who has supported me in my life and career from when we first married in San Francisco, through our journey to start a new life in Australia and now is primary caregiver for our son.

4. What piece of advice would you give to a woman looking to begin a career in your field?

Being a researcher in the field of social work is very rewarding, for the potential of doing work that may have a broad impact on practice and policy. A place to get started is to work or volunteer with communities and organisations, and initiate research that is led by local needs.

Find out more about how the University of Sydney supports the promotion and inclusion of gender equity, and it's participation in the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot program, not just on International Women's Day, but every day.