Theme 3: Lived Experiences of Women in Academia - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Theme 3: Lived Experiences of Women in Academia

Promoting ideas, sharing stories, finding connection, collaboration and friendship
Creating meaning together, supporting and celebrating each other, lifting each other up

This third theme considers why it is important to shed light on women’s lived experiences, to talk about what it has felt like, and feels like, to be a female academic. We consider how women might – in deliberate, activist, celebratory and heartful ways – use research methodologies to unearth their individual and collective voices, to unveil their lived and embodied stories.

With this theme we make space for reflection about the complexity and uncertainty of our academic work. We sit together to listen to each other’s stories, to bear witness and to hold space. The value of responsive, personal, and aesthetic ways for communicating our stories of experiences – such as can be found in narrative, autoethnographic, arts-based, and contemplative research methods – are explored.

We use this theme to delve into the ways we can include our vulnerable selves, our hearts-spirits-minds-bodies-stories, in our academic work in evocative, reflexive, creative, thoughtful, meaningful and life-giving ways. And, we give time to stillness, contemplation, storytelling, art-making, experimentation and practice. In leaning in to these ways we are leaning into freedom, playfulness, friendship and hope.

Prepare for Theme 3

Preparation materials for Theme 3

Theme 3 Keynote
How Does a Woman Find Her Voice and Not Lose Her Soul in Academia?

My presentation will be about the challenges and blessings of being a woman in academia. I plan to speak about my life as a professor, writer, traveler, and public speaker, as well as my life as a daughter, wife, and mother, addressing how I’ve balanced these different roles. Ultimately, I hope to offer inspiring responses to this question: In the midst of pressures to be brilliant and productive and conform to distancing forms of self-expression, how does a woman in academia find her voice and not lose her soul?


Ruth Behar
Ruth Behar
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Theme 3 Panel

(NB: This session is run in a Zoom meeting and will be recorded. The presenters would like people to leave their cameras on to engage as a group, but participants who do not wish for their image to be shared on the recording should leave their camera off.)

Women wit(h)nessing: Contemplative and artful practices for social and personal transformation

In the cyber womb space of Zoom, participants will have the opportunity to enter an interactive workshop grounded in contemplative and creative arts practices. The overarching purpose of the workshop is to create a co-generative space of nurturing and communi-care, through individual and collective attention to spirit, mind, and body: a radical act of self-care within a circle of supportive wit(h)nesses.

Barbara and Susan will share their experiences with contemplative and artful practices in the context of research and invite conversation about possibilities within and beyond the academy.

Participants are invited to dress comfortably and have basic writing and/or art materials of your choice nearby (eg. sketchbook, journal, writing and drawing tools, paint, fabric, needles, clay). Also, please have a candle and matches at hand to help co-create a ritual for opening the space-time together. Each participant will also be invited to acknowledge the particular Indigenous communities/Elders who are the traditional stewards of the land on which she lives.


Susan Walsh
Susan Walsh
Read more about Susan
Barbara Bickel
Barbara Bickel
Read more about Barbara