Women In Work: Deborah Bailey-Rodriguez (Psychologist)

Hey lovelies, welcome to my new series, Women in Work! 

In this series, I will be interviewing women who work in a variety of professions and ask them a wide range of questions from, how they got into those professions? If they face prejudice because of their gender? Is it harder to be a woman in work? To see how it differs between professions and most of all, to commend these women for pursing the things they love and proving that you can do whatever you want as long as you work hard and persevere.

The first wonderful women in the new series is my second-year module leader, Dr Deborah Bailey-Rodriguez!

Sharuni: Hi Deborah! Tell me a bit about your profession and What it entails?

Deborah: Hi Sharuni! So, at the moment I am a lecturer of psychology at Middlesex University, I’ve been in this post since September 2018 and before that I was an associate lecturer for a couple of years. My job involves, at the moment, teaching a range of undergraduate modules such as developmental psychology, psychology and education, research methods, as well as Master’s level, PhD students and dissertation students. So that’s the teaching side of things, that involves delivering lectures, admin and module leadership. 

And then the other side, is doing research and that’s the part I really enjoy. So, doing research on topics such as relationships, peer support worker in mental health settings and I’m considering to do a study on the psychological side of veganism, because I’m vegan and that’s another way for advocacy through research-based evidence. 

And then outside, as a part of my role I’m also involved with a charity organisation called The International Attachment Network and we put on (every two months) workshops on everything to do with attachment such as monsters to mess which is all about attachment and play therapy. We’re organising a conference for November and that way we get students involved and it’s bringing the therapy world together with the research world. 

The first wonderful women in the new series is my second-year module leader, Dr Deborah Bailey-Rodriguez,  

Sharuni: Hi Deborah! Tell me a bit about your profession and What it entails?

Deborah: Hi Sharuni! So, at the moment I am a lecturer in psychology at Middlesex University, I’ve been in this post since September 2018 and before that I was an associate lecturer for a couple of years. My job involves, at the moment, teaching a range of undergraduate modules such as developmental psychology, psychology and education, research methods, as well as Master’s level, PhD students and dissertation students. So that’s the teaching side of things, that involves delivering lectures, admin and module leadership. 

And then the other side, is doing research and that’s the part I really enjoy. So, doing research on topics such as relationships, peer support worker in mental health settings and I’m considering to do a study on the psychological side of veganism, because I’m vegan and that’s another way for advocacy through research-based evidence. 

And then outside, as a part of my role I’m also involved with a charity organisation called The International Attachment Network and we put on (every two months) workshops on everything to do with attachment such as monsters to mess which is all about attachment and play therapy. We’re organising a conference for November and that way we get students involved and it’s bringing the therapy world together with the research world. 

Sharuni: Did you go to university? If so, what did you study? 

Deborah: So, I did my undergraduate degree here at Middlesex University, I did my BSc. Psychology with counselling skills, I did it part time as I was working full-time, for 4 years. And then after that, as I got a first in every one of my modules and so I went straight into doing a PhD, here as well and I did that part-time again because I was working full-time.

Sharuni(thinking): GO DEBORAH!

Deborah: And then I got into teaching on a part-time basis here. So, that’s how I got into it, by doing my PhD, doing teaching, doing research (I love doing research) and then throughout my undergraduate I did some voluntary posts as well both at university with lecturers and with charities such as Sane the helpline. 

Sharuni: Was this something you always wanted to do? 

Deborah: I’ll be honest I did psychology for A-levels and I loved it! And then I went to on to do a degree on Journalism with Psychology and Economics. And to be fair, I hated the journalistic side of things and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left college but I thought I love reading and writing so I’ll do that, I’ll do journalism and because I liked psychology so much I’ll add that on. In the end, I LOVED the psychology side of it so much and I tried to change the degree to psychology but it wasn’t possible. So, I ended up dropping out after the first year and then while I was working full-time (on my year off) I thought ‘what do I really want to do’ and that’s how I got I into the psychology with counselling skills at Middlesex. Even though I loved it at college, at that point when I left, I still wasn’t very clear about what I wanted to do. I think it’s a difficult point to have to decide what you going to do for the rest of your life. 

Sharuni: It really is, and even now I think, coming into third year, I still don’t know what I want to do once I’ve graduated. 

Deborah: I remember changing my mind about what I wanted to do at the end of my degree and that’s normal but it’s also a bit anxiety provoking because you think it’s the end of my degree I should know what I want to do but it’s not clear at that point. 

Sharuni: EXACTLY! And you are kind of expected to come out of university, get a job and get on with it but it’s not that easy.

Deborah: And you’ve got societal expectations, you’ve got parents and family who are like ‘Oh, you know my daughter she’s studying and she’s going to do this and that’ and it’s like I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. So, there’s a lot of outside pressure and you’ve got the financial side, right I need to get a job and I have student loans I need to pay off and things like that. But, I think it’s normal not to know at the end and to still be exploring via Masters, travelling, work or work experience, which I think, we should speak more about. 

Sharuni: So, What is it like being a woman in Psychology, as a researcher and a teacher? 

Deborah: That’s a good question and I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. From my own experiences, so far, here at Middlesex I haven’t noticed any differences in particular. And, we know in our profession  there’s more women than men in both the practice and research-based side of things. So, I haven’t necessarily noticed anything in that regard or even when publishing or opportunities, such as conferences. I have to say I am quite pleased, I’m quite sensitive and hyper-vigilant as too, if these are going to come up I’m always thinking about it, if there’s any pay differences and things like that of doing the same job. To be fair I haven’t seen anything and I don’t, from my own experiences, see that it is more difficult as a woman in this profession. 

Sharuni: What advice would you give other women/girls who want to pursue a career in Psychology? 

Deborah: Advice I would give, I guess in general, is whatever you want to do, you CAN do! It doesn’t matter how far away it seems or how difficult it seems, as a young woman you can do whatever you set your heart out to do, even in a more male dominated industry. It can be more difficult and challenging but you can succeed and you can succeed even more because you know what the challenges are ahead of time already. 

Specific advice I would give is to engage in a variety of voluntary work and see what you find fulfilling and enjoyable, don’t let society or certain life goals or standards in life like ‘women should have a child by this age, you should be married by this age’ expectations that society have of women that they don’t for men. Work at your own pace, at  your own lifestyle! Follow your passion, it’s ok to not to know what you’re doing because everyone works at their own pace and so many people come into this profession later on in life because they have gone through a different career path and realised that it’s not for them. There’s no right or wrong way. Because all those experiences that have led you to this point will all be valuable to you in your future career and in your life. 

Sharuni: Can you tell me a little bit about your research? What are you currently working on?

Deborah: At the moment, I’m doing research into peer support workers, so this is in a mental health setting, specifically to do with eating disorders. A peer support worker is someone who has had a diagnosis of that mental health, so eating disorders, who is now considered to be fully recovered and they are someone who goes in between the service users and the clinical stuff, so a bridge between the two sides to communicate the service users’ needs to the staff. Someone who has had those experiences but is now recovered and so can help communication between them and also to create activities and provide support. I’m researching the experiences of being a peer supporter in that particular setting, peer support workers are a relatively new job role. 

I’m also considering a study on veganism, I’m still at the literature review stage and I’m not too sure what shape that’s going to take because most of the research tends to be health based. And my big summer project is to publish from my PhD and as well as that I have a chapter that I’m working on for a book. 

Sharuni: What advice would you give your younger self? 

Deborah: It’s ok to go at your own pace, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone and you don’t have to do everything or be/do everything to everyone. So, during my PhD I was meant to be doing it within 5/6 years but instead I ended up doing it in 4.5 years, which is closer to full-time (3/4 years), while I was working full-time, publishing and doing other research at the same time. So that was very stressful! I would have told my younger self to take a step back and relax and that it’s ok to do one thing at a time or take it at a more relaxed pace. And try to work out a work/life balance because that’s had a knock-on effect now, I’m still trying to get out of that mentality of trying to do everything for everyone and trying to use the word ‘NO’ a little bit more. 

Sharuni: Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?

Deborah: Oh, good question. I’d like to be at least a senior lecturer, research wise I’d like to be making a name for myself in the vegan research, so that’s one to do some activism and that’s one way I’d like to establish myself in that field. I’d also like to be more established in the relationships and mental health world as well, that’s a lot. And in five years’ time I’d like to have a family at the same time and I think it’s important to acknowledge because I’ve always said that I didn’t want to have children until my early thirties and so it’s worked out really well in terms of timing and I feel ready now.  

Sharuni: Do you think that as a woman, taking time off to have children, will affect your profession or even your 5-year plan? 

Deborah: It’s definitely something I have been thinking about a lot, what impact will this have on my career and at the same time I’m hating that I’m thinking that way as well because I’m thinking I want to do what’s best for my children. But at the same time my career is also important to me and I’ve worked hard to get to where I am at and I want to progress and continue and so I do think that women do have it harder because it’s a pause. Whilst everyone else is continuing on and progressing with their career, you are pausing to do what you need to do and you don’t know how you’ll feel at the end of maternity leave, if you want to go half time, if you want to come back or not, there is a pressure. There is a lot of pressure and I know that some women, even in there maternity leave, they continue doing their research and I think a lot of them feel that they have to, in order to try and stay on top of things so that when they come back they don’t feel like they’re a level or two behind their peers. 

Sharuni: Finally, I know this is a bit random but what’s your favourite book? 

Deborah: Oh, this is a tough question! I don’t think I have an absolutely favourite one but I love the Hunger Games books and the Harry Potter’s, I definitely want to reread them at some point. I love, ok, so this is a fantasy one and it’s the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix and it’s about magic, kingdoms, adventure and the main character is a strong woman who has to overcome adversity and she does it so well. I love the books where you can learn from the characters and they don’t just sail through life, they have to overcome obstacles and the emotions come through and it takes you through a journey. 

I just want to say a massive thank you to Deborah for being the first person in my new series! I hope you enjoyed reading the first instalment in the series and if you would like to be interviewed or have any input I’d love to hear from you. 

If you want to read more about Deborah’s Work than I have attached a few links below:

https://www.mdx.ac.uk/about-us/our-people/staff-directory/profile/rodriguez-deborah

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Deborah_Bailey-Rodriguez

Love Sharuni xx

//17th July 2019//  

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