International Women's Day: Shifting the balance

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Author: Dr Gina Dolan is Head of Research, Faculty of Life Sciences and Education at the University of South Wales

I write this in the weeks leading up to International Women’s Day and I feel the pressure! The pressure to write something original, engaging, meaningful and thought provoking that you will start and continue to read. As women and men in academia we continue to put this pressure on ourselves feeling ‘imposter syndrome’ in an increasingly challenging environment. Should we do this? ‘No’, but for me it’s all about balance which manifests in many forms.

I don’t just mean the stereotypical balancing of careers and homelife, but the balance about who we are, what we represent and the compassion we have for ourselves and others. This piece was conceived as a focus on the challenges for women in accessing and managing clinical academic careers, a fundamental example of the desire to maintain, develop and grow clinical expertise integrated with research. Such posts are increasing, but underrepresented in nursing and allied health professional groups in comparison to medical professions. The challenges and threats of balance again of mastering clinical professional expertise with academic excellence….imposter syndrome starts to creep…

What’s my message on International Women’s Day?

To think about that balance. Can we excel in all areas? ‘Yes’, but realistically not all of the time. So, in taking this challenge be more compassionate to yourself and others, take the time to listen to others and give them the generous gift of your attention.

In the interests of balance, I had best plug some of our work. At USW, we lead a highly successful government funded all-Wales Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC Wales) to build capacity and capability of clinical academic research .

We have funded 120 Fellowships to date and are delighted to report that we recently awarded a PhD Fellowship to Jodie Gill, a Lecturer in Practice Based Learning in the School of Care Sciences. Jodie is a Mental Health Nurse and her PhD aims to understand the helpfulness and hinderance of diagnostic labelling in child and adolescent mental health.

I am also currently working with colleagues Dr Juping Yu and Dr Edward Oliodi and our partner Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (balance of academia and industry!) on a KESS funded Masters by Research project exploring NHS staff perceptions of compassion. Our student Jane Williams is at the early stages of the work which commenced in January.

So, to conclude, take a moment today to think about balance in the things that you do and in your relationships with others. Appreciate yourself, but also give peers equal time to contribute, so we can champion diversity and independent thinking. And lastly, but importantly, to be compassionate to others you must have compassion for yourself.

About Dr Gina Dolan

Dr Gina Dolan

Dr Gina Dolan is Head of Research, Faculty of Life Sciences and Education at the University of South Wales, and Operational Lead for RCBC Wales. Gina’s work centres on promoting research engagement and building research capacity.

Gina has over 20 years’ experience in health-related research including nurse education, patient experience, self management of health and cancer care and has published widely in these areas. A consistent feature of her work is to nurture and inspire new researchers to make a real impact on professions and practice.