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On International Women’s Day - which this year has the theme #BeBoldForChange - meet six women who are bringing passion and perseverance to their PhD research at UTS Business School, often having overcome individual challenges to do so.
Their research will help people ranging from expatriate families and children with language difficulties through to consumers and investors …
My name is Belinda Barton and I initially joined UTS in 2012 in the Bachelor of Business degree – but my story starts a little earlier.
A couple of years before, I’d been living a normal life. Things changed quickly, though, after I was given a life-changing cancer diagnosis. I was 34 weeks pregnant at the time.
The next 12 months was filled with major surgery and treatment, and also left me a single mother with an infant daughter.
Shortly after things settled down, I decided to study. I’d regretted not completing my degree straight after school, plus I hoped a new career would somehow find me. Fast forward four and a half years and I’m now enrolled in a PhD in Marketing!
My research centres on ageing and how individuals’ perception of their age influences their behaviour … from buying clothes that make us feel younger to putting off getting a mammogram.
Enrolling in a PhD was a big decision. The financial and emotional factors were my biggest concerns. Knowing I was signing up to be a poor student for another three to four years, and getting back on the emotional rollercoaster that is study, was incredibly hard.
I took the plunge because I knew if I could survive cancer, domestic violence, being a single mum and study all at once, then nothing could stand in my way.
I’m a PhD candidate with the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE), where I’m looking at the economic impact of language impairment in children.
I chose this topic as my daughter has a language disorder and there was little information out there on the long-term outcomes for these kids. I really wanted to explore whether some children with language difficulties do better than others and whether, from a policy perspective, we can make a difference. The answer appears to be yes.
The key is education. High-quality, equitable education and early identification of language difficulties allows these kids to catch up academically, which in turn lowers rates of emotional and behavioural health issues.
It was a bit daunting taking on a PhD – I’m juggling family, part-time work and a full-time PhD, so having a supportive environment was the most important factor in deciding to go ahead.
But at the end of the day you just need to dive in.
My research is in international human resource management – in particular family issues when on international assignments.
I have a very personal motivation for this research because I was in this situation myself. I first came here with my partner when he started his PhD at UTS five years ago.
I also studied, and we had two children. After finishing my Master’s, I knew I wanted a research career.
But my partner was about to finish his PhD, which meant I had a really hard decision to make, because he had to go back to Vietnam. Pursuing a PhD myself meant I would have to live far away from my family and my sons, at times.
But one of my lecturers strongly encouraged me. She said I could be a role model for my children because they would grow up seeing how much effort I put in to pursue my passion and to make their lives better. I decided to do my PhD here and try my best to balance my family life.
My advice for women thinking of going down this path is that you shouldn’t hesitate to follow your true passion, because we have great strength and resilience to overcome any challenge.
I moved here from Slovakia with my husband – and just two bags – about three years ago, to fulfil our life project of living in Australia.
There were setbacks at the beginning and I had doubts about whether I’d made the right choice. But, step by step, and with the help of an Australian Postgraduate Award, I started working on my PhD.
The subject of my research is craft beer. The brewing industry is dominated by big multinational companies, and I’m looking at the internationalisation of craft breweries. I hope this study will help industry and government bodies foster sustainable growth and fair business environments for small producers generally.
I’m now in the final stage of my PhD – and I’m preparing for a new role, as a mother, starting April.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who drew a lucky lottery ticket. It was an unusual ‘prize’ though – meeting great people and having the genuine support of my PhD supervisors (who happen to be men). It helps make up for having my family far away.
The greatest piece of advice I’ve had recently is that every pregnancy is different, every baby is different, every parent is different … and every PhD is unique. Adjusting things in your own way and not worrying about what others are doing will help you tackle life changes.
I came to UTS from China in 2014 to work on a PhD because of my passion for research in economic theory.
My parents were worried when I decided to come to Australia, which was a totally unfamiliar country to me. But I believed it was a good opportunity to explore the world and my potential. I like to take on challenges – it’s boring to live a settled life that is well foreseen.
A beautiful feature of doing research is that you’re trying to come up with something new and to make a contribution to knowledge.
My research is mainly about the disclosure of information. There’s an ‘explosion’ of information today. As customers, finding and selecting information is important, while for businesses the strategic disclosure of information is a marketing strategy.
For those who seek to continue their study and research, I will quote something I was told by a stranger I met on a bus: There’s no rush into marriage or a well-paid job. What’s really important is to find your interest and to live your life.
I’m originally from Ukraine and I’m undertaking a PhD in Finance. My research is in market microstructure – the rules and structure of markets. Ultimately, I hope my research will help us understand how to improve the stability of financial markets at a time when automated trading is occurring at extremely high speeds.
I’m also interested in the international relations and social welfare aspects of finance. I had a chance to explore these during my time at Georgetown University in Washington DC, as a Wallenberg International Fellow, shortly before I came to UTS.
While in Washington I also worked as a Consultant at the World Bank, where I was surrounded by people who were the top experts in their fields. That exposure really planted the idea of a PhD firmly in my head.
For anyone considering a PhD, my advice would be to figure out your why’s, what’s and how’s before you start. Why do it, and will this reason hold in three years’ time? What’s your research topic? How will you do it? Do you have the skills you need?
A PhD is not only an intellectual exercise. More importantly, it’s a test of willpower and determination.