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International Women's Day 2017

Dr Rebecca Wade - Senior Lecturer, School of Science Engineering and Technology

Rebecca is a senior lecturer within Abertay’s School of Science Engineering and Technology. An experienced researcher with 20 years in the fields of landscape processes (soils and water), rivers and river restoration, sustainable urban water management and urban ecosystem services, Rebecca has been at Abertay since 2002.

Tell us about your career…

At school, I loved science subjects but I loved arts, humanities and social subjects, too. I’m a real people person and when I decided to study the environment, I was fascinated by how people interact with the environment and was determined to study this aspect, too. After completing my geography degree and PhD at the University of Dundee, I took my first real academic job in Illinois, USA. This was an eye opener in so many ways. As well as the challenges of taking on a new job in a different country, I had to manage a team of younger researchers whilst at the same time reporting to several senior male colleagues. I was impressed with the women around me who were confident in their role and abilities and would push themselves. But I also realised first hand some of the real challenges for working women. In 2001 whilst working in the USA I had my first child and was eligible for just two weeks’ paid maternity leave, and only 12 weeks off work! A huge challenge, and a very different situation than if I had been in the EU/UK, but with the support of a wonderful husband who was the main carer for our first baby I went back to work full time after just five weeks of maternity leave.

I’ve been at Abertay since 2002 and had my second child in 2003. I have progressed from a part-time teaching role to a combined research and teaching role, first two days a week, then three, then four and then full-time. This was important for me and helped me to balance my home and work life. I have loved working in the Urban Water Technology Centre at Abertay. It’s a small but dynamic team with an international reach. I’m also really delighted in recent years we have achieved a better gender balance, with 30% female academic staff teaching on the Civil and Environmental Engineering programme. Together, we want to encourage more women into civil and environmental engineering. I feel exceedingly lucky to have been supported by my family through my career. 

Inspired by…

Dame Anne Glover, a Scottish biologist and academic. She served as Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission. I have had the opportunity to meet Anne and to hear her speak. She encourages us to recognise that opportunities are there if we push ourselves forward and also to remember 'that nothing is possible without the help and support of others.'

Advice for young women…

Do your best to study a subject and get a job in an area you are truly interested in, then grasp it with both hands. Seek out people who can act as mentors to you and help or advise you how to get to where you want to go. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or push yourself forward – for example, don’t wait for people to ask you to go for promotion or to serve on influential committees. 

International Women’s Day…

There are so many examples of women who have been instrumental in advancements in history who have not gained the recognition they deserve. They should be remembered. International Women’s Day is about recognition and promoting equality. This year the theme is #BeBoldForChange and encourages all of us to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender-equal world.