Women Finding Success podcast: Episode 9 – Dr Rebecca Olive

On this week’s episode of the Women Finding Success podcast, 2020 UQ Ally Award winner Dr Rebecca Olive from the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences discusses her ARC DECRA Fellowship, her work with the UQ Ally Network, and her respect and passion for oceans and blue spaces. 

About this week's guest

Dr Rebecca Olive

Dr Rebecca Olive is a Senior Research Fellow (ARC DECRA) at The University of Queensland’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. She studies sport, physical activities, bodies and health through a feminist cultural studies lens. Her work with DECRA explores intersections in the health of humans and oceans. In addition to writing for scholarly publications, Dr Olive writes for surf media. She aims to make her research available to the communities it is focussed on. Dr Olive was the inaugural winner of the UQ Ally Award in 2020, awarded by the UQ Ally Network for her support of LGBTIQA+ people within her research, teaching, and service.

She uses feminist and cultural studies approaches to studying sport, physical activities, bodies and health, and her DECRA work explores how surfing and ocean swimming shape our relationships to taking better care of coastal ecologies. Studying human-ocean relationships is an extension of her focus on issues of equity and diversity and lifestyle sports and cultures, in particular women’s experiences.

As well as scholarly publications, Rebecca writes for surf and other media, and aims to make her research available to the communities it is focused on. She was the inaugural UQ Ally Award Winner in 2021.

Listen now

Episode transcript

[Dr Elena Danilova - 00:04] Welcome to the Scholarly Soup podcast brought to you by The University of Queensland Library. In this podcast series, we're going to meet with amazing women who found their success in academic and professional roles at the University of Queensland. They are resilient, smart, proactive, and more importantly, they're now working together to implement systemic changes that could make your career progression that little bit easier. If success breeds success, then listen to their stories and learn from the best. In this episode, I'm talking with Dr Rebecca Olive, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences. Through her research, Rebecca wants to find out how lifestyle and nature sports contribute to critical cultural, social, and historical teaching, and research relating to sport, physical cultures, bodies and health. Rebecca runs a podcast and a blog called moving oceans, in addition to communicating about her findings through numerous research publications. Are you fascinated by blue spaces? Do you like to look up at the skies? Are you drawn to the ocean? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will definitely enjoy this conversation. Dr Rebecca Olive, good morning and welcome. Firstly, when I learned that you were going to be on the podcast I thought, hang on a second, I know Rebecca. Who could forget those beautiful blue eyes, and the energy you bring to the room. You've been attending some of the training sessions and that's how I know you. And I know also that you are a very, very busy person. So how do you find time and energy to pursue so many projects?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 02:10] I am very lucky to have a lot of projects that I really enjoy and that keep me lit up. So all the projects are really interesting for me to pursue. It is definitely difficult. And I'm, I sort of do a lot of the projects on my own. I do some collaborations and other people sometimes lead those. And I'm not a micromanager in any situation so if people have responsibilities they've taken on, I let them take those responsibilities. And for me, it's about being flexible and adaptable a lot of the time let's rather than rigid. So I have things in my diary that are absolutes. But I also go with the flow a little bit, because projects, things just don't go the way you think they're gonna go ever, basically. So being a little bit flexible and adaptable is really good, as well as rigid time management. But also, like I said, I think the fact that all my projects are so interesting to me, and that they have so many interconnections as well makes it sort of more manageable in that the work all crosses over with each other.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 03:17] Well talking about it, can you tell us a little bit about your most challenging project? And what is challenging about it? And how do you actually overcome problems? What keeps you motivated?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 03:29] Well the biggest project actually, the most challenging project's definitely the one I'm doing at the moment, which is my ARC DECRA project, because it's so exciting, but it's big, and it's sort of got a lot of pressure on it as well, because it's, it's funded as a Fellowship. So I feel like there's a lot of pressure to make it work and to produce a lot of useful things, a lot of useful outputs as well. So not just scholarly publications, but to make sure that the things that I produced are available to the public as much as possible. So that means writing across genres as well. So that side of it's pretty challenging. This projects also been challenging, because the data collection part of the project is all about fieldwork around different places in Australia and internationally. And obviously, in the last year that hasn't been so possible. And I've had to be very adaptable again, and sort of reimagine how I can do things and in some ways that's meant having really intense fieldwork in one, one location, which has its own benefits as well because you develop these really meaningful relationships to people that are quite deep. So that's, that's great. But it's difficult for me to even get to New South Wales, let alone other places to connect with the communities that were key to this project. So that's definitely been really challenging. And you know, disappointing. But in the scheme of what's happening in the world, it's sort of small, so easy to get perspective on that. But having to reimagine a project that I spent so long imagining and planning has been challenging, but there's always unexpected benefits to that as well. So I'm not sure I always overcome the challenges so much as I'm able to work with them and around them. And I work in the humanities. And so it's different to I've got colleagues in the sciences who, you know, their projects really had to stop like, absolutely, because of COVID restrictions. And so I have a lot more flexibility in that I can adapt things quite easily in my work. So yeah, I think that's probably been the biggest challenge this time around is my DECRA project in the scope, the pressure to produce really meaningful outputs, and then doing that not being able to collect the empirical information I wanted to do through fieldwork because of COVID.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 06:00] That's very good advice there. Work with the problems and around them. Sometimes it's really hard, you know, things are outside of your control, right. So, yeah.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 06:09] Yeah, and sometimes you can't solve them. Sometimes, I was really surprised me that I hadn't thought about was watching some colleagues who had to let some projects go. They couldn't be done. And I imagine that was really, really hard. And I haven't had to do that. So you know. So I think it's important to recognise that sometimes projects aren't just going to, they just can't continue. And that's really difficult. But maybe it opens opportunities for other projects to start, which is a bit of a Pollyanna answer, really. And that's where having really good colleagues around you who can help you find a way through is very helpful.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 06:45] Rebecca, I looked through your Instagram account. And what really fascinated me was that you have many photos of the ocean and the skies, and they were like clear blue skies, skies with feather light clouds, gloomy skies, swirly, whirly, clouds skies with the sunset and the sunrise. And I definitely saw a cloud in the shape of a Chinese Dragon. I swear by that. So why does it have anything to do with your DECRA project, like blue spaces and hills? Or is it something else?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 07:21] Yes, my DECRA work's about oceans, blue spaces, as you said, and how those spaces are very good for human health and how our participation in those spaces through different sport can be good for those spaces too. It can be good for, to helping us develop connections to those places, to those ecologies and to want to see what kind of effects that has. So does that change our understandings of those places? Does it change our consumption practices? Does it change how we're willing to volunteer to help those places, to take care of them, or modify our behaviour and how we interact with places as well. So for me, yeah, I've got lots of photos of water and ocean from being in it. But also, one of the things I really enjoy is the sky and the clouds in the sky. Because I feel like that's always a place that I can go to find solace and comfort and perspective. And skies, lots of places aren't always available to everyone. So I can't always get to the beach when I want to get to the beach. I live in Brisbane, and I have to work. But I can always look up. And, you know, actually, I'm one of those people who doesn't love a clear blue sky with no clouds, because I like the clouds to give a bit of shape to it and they help my imagination a bit. But even on a really gloomy day, you can see texture and dimensions and movement in the sky as well. So I really, I feel like no matter where I am, I can always look up or out a window and see that and I can always have access to thinking about something bigger than me. And it helps put my questions in more perspective. And they're beautiful, beautiful, like the sky's so beautiful most of the time, like, I think all of the time. So you know, it's also just a way to take time out. And although picking up your phone and photographing out could be one way to distract, to take away from that moment, you know, take you out of the moment, I find it puts me deeper in the moment because I focus in on details a bit more. So I put them on Instagram more as an archive for myself to look back on than anything else.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 09:31] Yeah, they look fascinating. And also, Rebecca, I know that you have a blog called Moving Oceans. So what is the purpose of this blog? And what story are you telling through it?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 09:43] The blog is movingoceans.com and that's part of a website that I made for the project and that comes back to my point earlier around thinking about the kinds of outputs that I want to create from my research. So journal articles and book chapters are really important and wonderful and I love reading them, and I love sharing them with colleagues. But creating a website gives you, with a nifty name, is a really easy way to get to allow different people to access my project quite easily. So I called it Moving Oceans, that's easy to remember. movingoceans.com is, you know, very easy. And people can go there and check out the project in their own time. And I've got the blog, I'm sort of being very slow to- - as a place to put my findings as I publish them. Also, to promote the work of other people. Sometimes I post field notes, after to, reflections on field notes. So it's sort of, the blog acts as a way for me to write through and think about particular ideas that are relevant to the project, I only put things there that are relevant to this project. So I'm really disciplined about that, but also as it, so it becomes an archive for me as I go ahead, but also to just share things with people. And in the work that I do, I really believe that you have to be vulnerable back to the communities that you're working with. So if I just want to take stuff from the swimmers and surfers that I'm- who I'm talking to and then turn that into journal articles, let's say, that doesn't feel right to me. You've got to put something of yourself out there for people as well, to connect with or to feel like they can trust you or know something of you, as well, that you've got skin in the game of these stories that, you know, you're- that I'm implicated in all the findings too and all the other stuff I write that I find. So yeah, the blog's a really nice way to be able to do that. Yeah, so that's why I had one before called 'Making friends with the neighbours’ that has been running since 2006. That's mostly about like, focused on surfing, women's surfing, and that it really showed me how great it is to do that you connect with people, they can comment back to you. And also it taught me to write in a way that that's different to academia, you know, they're different genres. So writing a blog post that's aimed at swimmers and surfers is completely different to writing a journal article on methodology aimed at sociologists. So you have to learn these different languages and learn how to move between them. And that takes a lot of time. And it's very difficult. And it takes a lot of practice. And so a blog or research blog for me gives me an opportunity to practice to put things out in the world, and also to learn how to write something and put it out there and really stand by it, like write something in a more colloquial sort of language. Yeah, and not say things you regret later. So I haven't done that. Because I've been really careful. Yeah, so it's a really good research practice, I think.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 12:43] Maybe turn this blog into a book later on.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 12:46] [laughs] We will see.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 12:51] Rebecca, do you often question things that you know why things are how they are?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 12:57] Like, in my research or in my personal life?

[Dr Elena Danilova - 13:01] Either.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 13:04] Yes, definitely. I think that, you know, being a critical humanities researcher means that you're always questioning the world and the way things are, because you know, that they don't have to be this way, they could be all sorts of ways. So, you know, for me, one of the challenges of academia is that your, your thinking and your critique doesn't stop when you log off for the day, it comes with you all the time. So when I go and watch a movie, and like, I like some- I love action movies, right? Feminist cultural studies researcher who just loves action movies, and I have to find a way to sort of sit with the critiques as I as they come up where you go, 'Oh, I really have a problem with that'. And so, you know, it can really take away from your ability to enjoy a lot of cultural products. But part of its learning to live with your problematic things within reason, you know, and to understand your own place in relation to them. So yeah, I'm constantly questioning and critiquing things, and I find it some something that it's difficult to turn that off. And that's one of the ways that this job can really seep into your everyday life. Because it doesn't just turn off. Like I said, when you leave the office for the day or, you know, turn your computer off for the day.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 14:20] That's why being a researcher is a lifestyle.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 14:24] It can be. Yeah, I mean, I now, I'm in a sort of enviable and unenviable position where I've turned my leisure pursuit, surfing and swimming, into my research area. And, you know, on the surface that can sound awesome. And in lots of ways, it is awesome. I get to go surfing and swimming to do my research. But what do I do when I'm not, to not research? I've sort of stolen those things from myself. Because now when I go, I can't swim and not think about my research questions. That's just not how it works for me. So yeah, it's really, it's really difficult. So yeah, be very careful when you choose your research areas because, um, leave yourself something, you know, you've got to leave yourself something to be able to enjoy.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 15:11] That's a really good advice there. Rebecca, you know, I think the majority of people are actually [Drawn to the ocean. And I came across an interesting article, which was actually published in Nature. And it was a discovery made by some Chinese scientists. And they sort of, you know, they found a creature which they believe, you know, the humankind evolved from, and, you know, so that was like, a prehistoric ancestor of humanity. And he believed 540 million years ago, apparently, it was like bag-like, sea creature with a large mouth and like, they had no anus and it moved by wriggling. And that's right, we evolved and I appreciate that. But I just think that there is probably a [Drop of ocean in me because I'm always [Drawn to that energy. And, you know, I feel like, it reenergises me, and sometimes scares me, and it evokes a lot of emotions in me. So, is there a [Drop of ocean in you? And what [Draws you to the ocean? Apart from research.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 15:58] [laughs] We've all got to start somewhere. Well, I mean, there's, people love to talk about how the composition of our blood I think, you know, really mimics closely composition of seawater, I think there's people like referring back to that sort of romantic idea. I mean, absolutely I feel, like, connected to the, to the ocean in lots of ways. I can't live there, because I can't breathe underwater, and I can't survive in salt water anymore. But I think there's lots of ways that the ocean makes us feel better, or feel well, or healthier. Some of those are physiological. The move- we feel good when we move, you know, when we're physically active, even going for a walk along near the, near the ocean can can make us feel really good. So there's those sorts of aspects. There's also the mental health and emotional aspects too where, you know, I was talking before about looking at the sky and what I get from that. I went surfing a couple of days ago, actually, and I was I've been really stressed, you know, in Brisbane, just, you know, you have a lot on, and I took the time to go for a surf and I was sitting there looking at the water and just suddenly felt like, yeah, this sense of space, and I felt so small, and my problems seem suddenly so small, even though they're, you know, they're real and everyday life is real, and those stresses are difficult. It gave me a sense of perspective, as well. It got me away from my devices, I could just sit quietly and just watch the world for a couple of hours I think I was out there. So you're looking at the birds, and you're feeling the water and the light and the colors, and think just taking that time to be still and be in the water and deal with the situations as they come to you. And it was a pretty calm day, you know, it wasn't a super challenging day. So there's that aspect too. And the other thing is the encounters that we have with the different you know, which is part of this sense of perspective, is the creatures that live there, and the plants that that are there and the water itself and, and other people, so when I go for a swim or a surf I usually go with other people. And that's something really nice too, is the beach is sort of a social space in a multi-species sense. So I might go with friends and we'll have a conversation and but also, maybe some birds come along near me and sit with me for a while, or maybe the turtles underneath me while I'm swimming. I saw a turtle yesterday. Today, I saw some sting rays, as well. And some fish, you know, and those things, they just make you feel like part of, part of something bigger. And we can get that, we can get that on land, like here in Brisbane I like to walk along Norman Creek and look at the mangroves and look at the birds in there and the lizards everywhere. So just I think, yeah, being able to take time out, water is a big part of that for me, certainly. And saltwater is something particularly, I think because of the volume of it, and the interconnectedness of oceans bases. So I think how it makes us feel like we come home to ourselves for some people, or we feel like we've taken a deep breath, or we got a sense of space. I think that's because of the scope of it. The scope of it, the hostility of it as hell. I mean, you know, and that's another important thing to say is that for some people, oceans are very frightening places and rightly so they, you know, that sense of perspective that I get from looking at the volume and the space and that could be terrifying. And not all people have leisure relationships to ocean. I mean, you know in Australia we're very aware of refugees who travelled by boat to come to Australia and the barrier that the ocean poses for them. Hundreds of people drown a year in Australia as well. So you know that it's also a wild place. And for me that wildness in the threat is part of what gives me perspective. But I am also remain aware that those threats are very real. And yeah, so you have to, you have to stay very humble, not in any kind of Instagram hashtag way, like, in a very real way, and humble about our ability to survive the ocean, you know, when we face it, but there's, I think there's value in that.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 20:40] Rebecca, can you help me understand the notion of surf equity? This is something that comes through your research publications, I think, or some, you know, I came across something like that. What do you think defines women who surf? That is an interesting thing. Is there any difference?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 20:59] Yeah, so I studied women's experiences of surfing for the last 10 years. And historically, women have had a harder time accessing the surf than men. In Australia, this has been very cultural. And so when we talk about surfing, it's important as well for me to clarify, I'm talking about contemporary surfing that is like post-colonisation surfing, it stems from Hawaiian modes of stand-up board riding, because surfing has happened around the world in lots of different ways in lots of different countries, and certainly Australia has, you know, 60,000 years of human history here where surfing and playing in waves has been part of Indigenous lives and cultures in different ways that we're only just starting to sort have revealed to us. So to be clear, the kind of surfing I'm talking about is it comes from Hawaiian traditions of surfing. And it's part of the take off in countries like the USA, and Australia as well. So it's the sort of stand up surfing that we see really popular today. And in that sense, women, although they've always participated in that version of surfing in Australia since colonisation, they often get left out of the story these days, it's not always exactly clear why other than I think we can sort of link it to broader cultures of how we treat women. Also, the boards were very heavy early on, so not not many men could even surf to be honest, you had to be very strong to carry some of the boards. And then after the sort of 60s and 70s, surfing culture started to get pretty sexist and misogynistic, and only focused on men, and it started focusing on performance a lot more, and women got really excluded. And so that's sort of been the story up till now. And for a long time, women just weren't included in how surfing was represented in Australia at all really, even though we had many, many competitively successful women surfers like really successful history of women surfing internationally for Australian women. So I was really interested in looking at what that was, like in an everyday sense out in the surf. And what I found is that it operates in a lot of different ways, like, like anywhere, there's like really deeply sexist part of the culture where women are highly sexualized, like awful. And Margaret Henderson's works been really good in revealing that. And then other situations where women were just blatantly excluded. Like they just weren't allowed out to the line-up. And I still hear women who told me those stories of wanting to learn to surf when they were young, in that, especially now the 70s and 80s, those stories happened. And their boyfriends or their brothers or other men in the surf just blocked them from being able to access it. And now today, it's a lot easier, like it's more normal for women to surf. So women have an easier time accessing the surf, but the forms of exclusion become a bit different. And what I found was that it wasn't so much about blanket exclusion, it was about differentiation so that out in the water, women are just treated a bit differently. They're not treated as normal surfers, so they don't get access to the kind of culture that's already established. They're treated in different ways. An example of that is like a woman will find it harder to get one of the better waves that come through. And I've one man told me Oh, yeah, like, if there's a set wave, it's called if the set wave comes through, the guys will make sure that another guy gets that wave. We don't want the women to get it because they some of those guys still feel embarrassed. So that's, you know, this is a 'not all men' kind of situation. But you know, for women out in the surf, it's still really challenging. And then there's all these bodies on display too, so it's which kind of women even get represented in surf media. And it's no surprise that it's like the really cute women who look good in bikinis and who fit a really heteronormative kind of ideal, who get featured the most. And that there are shifts and I think that is changing, and I do believe that, I see those changes, but it's been very slow. You know, the battles a hard one. But it has been a joy for when I started my PhD to now to see how many women are out in the surf that used to be bar, you know, my fieldwork was in Byron Bay. And when I was doing fieldwork back in, say, 2009-2010, even then I would be a minority out in the water. And I knew all the women who surfed in the area, we all knew each other. You could be out with 30 guys, and you'd be the only woman or there could be 100 guys, and there'd be three women kind of thing. These days. No way. It's like often 50-50, women and men and and we're just talking like women and men here, obviously to recognise that too. So I'm sort of simplifying. It's much more, it's much less blokey. And again, I'm surfing longboard, so that's different, too. But yeah, surfing's still sort of resistant to a lot of change, in part because it's so attached to particular places where people have deep relationships to the places and they want to protect them from crowds. So they still sort of keep anyone that the "locals", I'm using finger quote marks, will call newcomers from their break. So surf equity, like thinking about equity and surfing culture is something that's still really important, especially as surf therapy for mental health and physical health has become increasingly popular. Thinking about how we include or the opportunities for inclusion that diverse people have in the surface, is of vital importance I think.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 26:48] I almost cannot believe what I hear.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 26:50] I know, it's really sad and I always feel sad talking about it. Because, you know, actually, catching waves is the most joyful activity like, it itself is so much fun and what what like, what I feel so bummed about surfing culture, and I'm a surfer too, you know, so when I talk about this, I'm talking about myself and my friends and, and my community. It's so judgmental of people. But it doesn't have to be that way. And not everyone is that way. So you know, if you want to go to the beach and be on a body board and catching whitewash, that is so much fun, or just jumping waves is so much fun, you know, or catching them on your knees or your stomach. I mean, doing that is just brilliant. I love it. You know, there's no, yeah, there's no right way to do it. And I think that gets lost sometimes in listening to me, what I'm talking about, which is sort of people who surf really regularly and are probably like intermediate to really advanced surfers. But you know, I don't ever want to discourage anyone from trying it out and having a good time because it is so much fun to ride waves. Like I still, I've been surfing for 20 years and I get to my feet and it blows me away every time. Like I'm, I'm really not lying about that. It blows my mind every time I catch a wave. How does this happen? And how lucky I am and how much fun it is. So you know that the sport or the activity itself is so wonderful. And you can just avoid that cultural stuff. That's what I do now. I just stay away from it. No one can tell me how to surf. So get out there.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 28:30] I think I grew up in Siberia. So you know, there was no competition between men and women on skis or skates, you know, we probably looked all kind of the same, you know, with layers and layers of clothes to keep us warm. So there was no competition.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 28:49] Yeah, I mean, that's a really good point, right? Because here, it's warm water. So we don't wear so much. And um, that that makes a difference than in cold water places where everyone's wearing wetsuits. Yeah, exactly. It's a really good point.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 29:02] That's amazing. I really love it. And Rebecca, you are a very passionate advocate when it comes to equality and equity and all those things, you know, good for everyone. And from your own words, being part of UQ Ally Network has been one of the highlights of your work as an academic at UQ. So I know that you've been nominated by your peers, and you have actually won the UQ Ally award. So can you tell us a little bit more about your work in that space as well?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 29:34] Yeah, I got involved with a UQ Ally network like the minute I got involved in UQ, actually. I went and did the training, it felt really important to make sure that to students and other staff that you know, that I'd done that, that you're doing that kind of, making that kind of effort and doing that kind of work and that you're being really visible about being an ally. And then yeah, I've just stayed part of the network and I got involved with the Ally Committee for the uni as well. And I learned heaps through that, I learned loads about the role of policy because I've always been about under like working with culture, but what I what I learned through being part of the UQ Ally executive committee was, or the UQ Ally committee, was the year the importance of good policy, as well. And, and that kind of campus level visibility, not just amongst your school or students. So I learned loads about that, and, and just, I feel really lucky to have met so many amazing people. And then the Ally award was a real surprise to me. I mean, I got this email to say that I'd won it which was very confusing, because I hadn't applied for it or anything. And then I found out my colleagues had nominated me and being an ally isn't something that I think anyone should ask for credit for. So that that's really important to sort of recognise too, if that being an ally is just fundamentally being a good thoughtful person who, who stands up for what they believe in and does the kind of work that needs to be done, yeah contributes to ongoing Equity and Diversity work. But knowing that seeing my, reading my colleagues nomination was really nice. And yeah, they had to do a lot of work to do that. And so knowing that the work that that I do with them in the school, actually has meaning to them was so, so nice, and it's a great evidence of how important this kind of work is, as well, you know, because you end up feeling sometimes, like a really annoying person, because you're always sending the email going, 'Oh okay, so you should know about this issue. And you should know about this event'. And, and I always send those things out or talk to people or, you know, is raising those issues. And so, knowing that that was helpful to other people in the school was really great to see. I've just learned so much through being part of the Ally Network, I think the work they do in the university is really, really meaningful. And it's been wonderful. Yeah, I feel very lucky here.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 32:15] And congratulations, and thank you for all the work you're doing. That's great. That's really amazing. I also want I have a couple of more questions. So I wanted to ask if you're also a co-director of the Centre for Sport and Society at UQ, is that correct?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 32:31] Yeah, that's right. Yeah. It's been very quiet for the last year.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 32:34] I don't see how though. So tell us what's your secret about, you know, in avoiding overwhelm, and just managing your time? You have way too many spinning plates that you have, at the same time. How would you do that?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 32:53] I mean, I'll be really honest, I don't think I do. I mean, I, I think my, what I'm going to say will resonate with most academics is you sort of take things on and they creep up and then you realise how much you've taken on and you go, 'Oh, no, I said yes to too many things, even though I did say no to some things', and then you sort of go 'Okay, well, I'll spend some time really navigating this and, and figuring this out and finishing this up and saying no for a while'. And it's sort of this like ebb and flow of overwhelm, and then stopping and taking stock and stripping it all back again. I mean, I don't, I wouldn't ever want to suggest to anyone that I have a magic formula for doing, for managing my time, because anyone who knows me, who heard me say that I do have a magic formula would laugh heartily at that idea. But it is about being honest with yourself about how you're feeling at different times. Try like learning to say no, which is something I'm definitely still learning, having faith that other you don't have to take every opportunity because other opportunities will come along. And then I sort of have a lot going on, which some of that is also about supporting my colleagues. And really, I really love the school that I'm part of. I love the people I work with, and I respect them so much. And anything I can do to promote their work is really a pleasure for me. So the centre in that way is about promoting my, you know, making sure that my colleagues works promoted really well, and showing what we could do collectively in the Centre of Sport and Society in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. And also then engaging with the public, which is what we've done in previous years. We hold it we've held a really big event each year that's public facing where we sort of engaged with big questions that have come up for us that year. And that's been wonderful to be able to do. Yeah, I mean, you have periods when you feel like everything's under control, and then I definitely have periods where everything feels unwieldy and out of control, and it all seems to happen at once. And those times, for me, a time to really take stock and rethink what I'm doing. And I don't want, I don't want work to creep in to all my life all the time. And you should- sometimes I'll work an odd weekend and but it should be the anomaly, not the norm. I definitely don't have a, I don't have an answer for anyone, except to say that it's something I really struggle with. And that I have to ebb and flow with that too. And sometimes it takes, I have to listen to the advice of people I trust, who say, you've got too much going on, let's sit down. And let's think about this and start stripping it back a bit. Yeah.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 35:46] It's like waves coming at you when you're just riding them.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 35:49] Yeah, they come in sets and then there's a big lull. But I would say like, one thing I have learned is that when I have a period that feels quiet, and I feel like my days are quite slow, and I'm not rushing, and it's not deadlines flying at me, to not fill that space with things, to not be frightened that you have slow periods. When though you have a really slow period, really enjoy that. Because things come like things come and fill up the space. So you don't need to do too much to fill that space up, because it'll get filled, you know. So I think it's about also not feeling like you have to be working at breakneck speed all the time, that you can have slow period, you know, when you feel like you're not doing anything.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 36:32] Don't feel guilty.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 36:33] Yeah, and definitely don't try and fill it up all the time. That's, I've really learned that when, and yeah, and admit it, like if people say, how are you going? I'll go really good. Like, feel like everything's at a good pace. Like I really recognise that when it comes along. And because I think we often we can have a culture where you ask people, how are you? And they don't say how they are they tell you they're busy. And I sort of, I don't, I really don't like that. And I catch myself doing it sometimes, too. And I always stop. And I've actually said to people in the past, I'm so sorry. I said that, like, you know, everyone's busy. And that's not important. And actually, I'm pretty well, you know. Yeah, like 'busy' becomes this weird default setting or this status symbol. And I'm sort of trying to be really aware of that in my own life. Yeah, that we don't all have to be running at breakneck speed all the time. And, you know, like you said, I have a lot of stuff going on. But yeah, I need to ask questions of that for myself.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 37:36] Yeah, that's right. We make it easy, harder for women in academia? Do you think? And also, in your career progression? Would you have done anything differently?

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 37:47] Hmm, that's a really good question. So I would start by saying I wouldn't do anything differently. My career has been, I did my undergraduate honours and PhD at three different universities. I did sessional teaching after my PhD at a different university, I went and did a postdoc over in New Zealand, I came back to sessional teaching and you know, then I got a contract. And now I'm still on a contract with my with, I've got a fellowship, you know, and those things are sort of like, come along as I go. And it's difficult, because nothing's permanent or stable. But you know, life, nothing's permanent or stable. But I wouldn't do anything differently. I've tried to have a really, I think what I've tried to do is be really consistent in my ethics and who I'll work with. And so I'm really careful about who I work with because people have different politics of how they do work. And it's, I don't, I just want to work with people who have a similar politics of me about collaboration, and so on. So I think that I'm really pleased that I got good advice about that early on. I got really good advice early on about publishing outside of academia as well. So yeah, those things have been really valuable. And they also make me feel like there's life outside academia for me if that's the direction I choose to go. So in that sense, I feel... Yeah, no, I definitely wouldn't change anything. In hindsight. Is academia more difficult for women? I'm, I'm one of those women who, I'm single and I don't have kids, and so I don't... how I'm going to engage with that question is a bit different to someone who might be thinking about parenting and motherhood. I think that I've definitely had situations where I'm taken a lot less seriously in academia. I think academia can be difficult for women in different situations, at conferences and things you can feel a bit vulnerable sometimes, depending on your discipline, you might be a minority in your discipline. Certainly that's not the case for me in feminist studies and cultural studies. Although when I go to industry conferences as a humanities person, and as a woman, you definitely can be a minority. And that can be very challenging. When I talk to surfer, yes, that's definitely, I don't get take it or haven't in the past been taken as seriously. And I have had some amazing male colleagues who, they'll let me say something and they see no one's listening. So they say the same thing. And then when people go, you're amazing. They go, yeah, we're just saying what Bec said already. So I've got, had really amazing allies and support of my own. I feel like most of the conversation about women in academia has a lot to do with parenting these days. So I think that that's a, yeah, I can't really contribute to that. But I think it's had its moments. And I think that I have been lucky in that I've had really good support networks from other female colleagues. And I've always had amazing networks of women colleagues, always from the beginning. And I really value them. And also, for my male colleagues, too, they've been so supportive. They don't try and speak over me, they are really encouraging. They ask me for help with their work as well, you know, to look at it in different ways, too. So yeah, I've worked and I've learned a lot from watching that kind of Ally behaviour too, as then I try and be a better ally to different groups of people as well, you know. So I've really learned from watching how men support me as a woman.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 41:29] That sounds amazing. That sounds really good.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 41:32] So I definitely still think there's challenges for women in particular ways.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 41:37] Thank you so much for your time today, Rebecca. Your story is fascinating. Please continue doing all those amazing things for the good of humanity. And I hope to catch you one more time.

[Dr Rebecca Olive - 41:51] Thank you so much.

[Dr Elena Danilova - 41:53] Thank you. That's it for this episode of Women Finding Success. The podcast series was initiated by the SAGE Athena SWAN team at The University of Queensland. Thanks to Workplace Diversity and Inclusion team and Gender Steering Committee for their support and coordination. The series is produced by Dr Elena Danilova with technical production by John Anderson. If you enjoyed this podcast, please like, subscribe or write a review on the platform you get your podcasts from. Thank you for listening.


Return to Women Finding Success