Women in STEM: Robyn

Robyn and her amazing tattoos

Hi @phdlife92xo! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

So, my name’s Robyn, I’m 28, a single mum to two boys who are 7 and 12! My research is based in the social sciences and I’m looking at people’s experiences of Universal Credit.

When did you start your Instagram account? How did you get the idea?

I started my PhD Instagram in January 2020, I started it because I didn’t really know many people who were doing a PhD and I felt like I wanted to share my experiences and look at other peoples experiences to. I got the idea after typing in the #PhD on Instagram and realizing there was a huge online community!

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

So I think, any working parent (particularly single parents) will say this is always a struggle! For me, I try to do my core hours in the day when my children are at school and I tend not to work in the evenings. I normally work Saturdays as my children aren’t usually here and I always take Sunday off! Obviously during COVID19 striking a balance has been more of a challenge, particularly as both children are here 24/7 but I’ve found working until 3 p.m. and then spending family time the best way possible! My top tips are (1) plan what you need to do that day, I don’t plan to far in advance as this overwhelms me (2) Plan fun things with my children into the day – at the minute this is definitely our state sanctioned exercise catching Pokemon! (3) try not to fight against other commitments and just accept some days hardly anything will get done (4) I always try to make time for myself everyday…. Even in lockdown, I spend 30 minutes reading a book purely for pleasure.

During your studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

I did my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, the majority of people on the course were women, but there was also men on the course. I completed my Master’s in Criminology and I would say again there were more women, but obviously a smaller group. In my PhD at my campus I’ve only met females, but I know at the main campus there are more males completing PhD but overall I wouldn’t know. I’m not entirely sure why, women dominated the social science fields.

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

I’m fortunate to have not felt harassed or kept apart as a scholar because I’m a woman. However, outside of the university setting I have definitely felt, that my experiences and qualifications have not been taken seriously, particularly by men, who have belittled or talked over my opinions or attempted to mansplain things to me, about FEMINISM of all things??? Eurgh

How did you become passionate about science? 

I first became passionate about social science when I went back to college to study an Access to Higher Education course, in 2014 that’s when I first learnt about sociology and I just loved it, for the first time in my life, I felt there was something bigger than me to help explain so many complex different things, it’s a cliché but it changed my life! Social sciences and education, empowered me to leave a really abusive relationship and made me realise there was so much more I was capable of!

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

So I’m really fortunate to be a paid PhD student, there’s not way back in 2014 I would have thought I’d be in this amazing position, I wouldn’t have believed anyone. My research is looking at how the new welfare reform, Universal Credit impacts people’s lives. Since the Coronavirus happened, I had to pause data collection and with help from my supervisors we created a survey, to help understand how covid19 impacts the labour market and causes more people to claim Universal Credit. The aim of the research is to challenge and change how we perceive Universal Credit and to help improve the system by sharing people’s experiences. The most rewarding thing about this research, so far is participants saying “Thank you for listening it’s nice to be heard.”

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

I can’t comment on what it’s like to be in STEM. But I will say this, as a girl growing up people throw their expectations onto you on how girls should behave, what they should, who they should be. I only started to feel like my own person, and gained confidence when I listened to that little voice inside, and pursued things I was passionate about. I would say, work hard, listen to your inner voice, she is guiding you and ignore the people who try to insult you or you dreams, they are generally unhappy and insecure with themselves and their own lives.

Find Robyn also on Twitter: @Robyn92xo

As part of her research, she is conducting a qualitative survey, into claimant’s experiences of Universal Credit during COVID-19 epidemic: https://derbyblss.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7U6i3Sqd26wfBat

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