QUT Design Lab : International Women's Day 2021 – Prof Lisa Scharoun

Professor Lisa Scharoun – Head of School, School of Design

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

When I was born, women earned 62% of what men earned. 45% of women finished high school and amongst those only 17% went on to get a bachelor degree and higher (US Bureau of Labour Statistics). My mother and grandmother are both teachers and working mothers – strong-willed and determined women who fought to retain their careers whilst juggling children and household duties. Exhausted but still standing at the end of long days caring for students and then their own children – they represent the 17%. My mother always told me “there is nothing we women can’t do” and I wholeheartedly believe this. So on the back of the groundbreaking 17% I grew up with a determination to change those statistics. It is very difficult to juggle a senior leadership role with parenting; especially as I have a child with special needs, however it’s all worth it to pave the way for the next generation of strong-willed, determined and hardworking young women. IWD is a wonderful celebration of the solidarity of women and our ability to overcome the many historic barriers to success that face women.

What does it mean to be a woman in the Higher Education / Design sector?

I am the first in my family to complete a Masters and subsequently a PhD. I’m incredibly grateful for having had the opportunity to be educated to this level and know how crucial this education has been in shaping and informing my world view. Therefore, to me, working in higher education is both a privilege and a duty. I believe that as academics we are duty-bound to provide our students not only with deep disciplinary knowledge but also with the problem-solving skills and conviction that will enable them to tackle the issues that previous generations have been unable to elucidate.

Tell us about a recent Research highlight / achievement.

I recently published a book ‘Cross-Cultural Design for Healthy Ageing’ (Intellect 2020). I was the lead editor and author of three chapters in this book which brought together co-authors from all over the world to discuss the ways that we can influence positive design outcomes for ageing. I was also invited to host a panel for the Ullman School of Design’s “New Normal” series late last year discussing how women in design education have led during the pandemic. This can be viewed here.
A stellar teacher, mother of five, an advocate for fair work practices at her workplace – my mother is my inspiration. Without her example I would not be where I am today. In her teaching career, mother was awarded as being highly skilled in helping children learn to read. I was always encourage to read and explore the world. She taught me the power of education and how a woman’s place can be anywhere she wants it to be! The photo attached is of me as a little girl – doing what I loved best – reading 🙂

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