Marie Curie in her laboratory. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship to fund gender equity research

4 March 2020
The struggle for equality of history's most famous woman of science will be at the forefront of Dr Millicent Churcher's mind when she undertakes a research project on gender equity at the Freie Universitat Berlin in Germany.
Dr Millicent Churcher.

Dr Millicent Churcher.

Dr Churcher, an Honorary Research Associate in the University of Sydney’s Department of Philosophy, has received a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, worth €163,000 (approx. $272,000) over two years.

“It has been a long-term goal of mine to live and research overseas, and to develop my international research networks. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship program is highly competitive and, given that so many worthy projects miss out each year, I feel incredibly humbled and deeply honoured to have been successful in this round,” she said.

Although considerable progress has been made for gender equality in the 86 years since Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s death, Dr Churcher said more innovative approaches were needed to combat gendered discrimination in modern institutions.

Her research project will explore why particular reforms targeting gendered discrimination are effective in one institutional context, yet non-effective in others. As part of this project, Dr Churcher will analyse how the emotional experiences and attachments of institutional actors can serve to support or obstruct opportunities for institutional reform.

“The project is an outgrowth of my longstanding interest in imagination and emotion studies, and in theories of social justice and institutional design, which I was able to pursue as part of my doctoral studies and postdoctoral fellowship in the University of Sydney’s Department of Philosophy,” Dr Churcher said.

“The project itself was strongly inspired and shaped by the research that I have undertaken in recent years with University of Sydney scholars Professor Moira Gatens and Professor Danielle Celermajer on ‘institutional transformations’. Together, we have developed a network of local and international scholars around this project and have recently published a collection of papers as part of a special issue with Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities.

Dr Churcher said she was indebted to her colleagues for their support and to Professor Gatens, in particular, for her close mentorship and constructive guidance over the past decade.

“I have long benefited from the expertise and advice of female mentors at all different stages of their careers, who have generously taken time away from their own packed schedules to provide feedback on my work. It is in large part thanks to them that I feel equipped to take on a project of this scale,” she said.

During her fellowship, Dr Churcher will be carrying out her research at the Affective Societies Collaborative Research Centre, which brings together multidisciplinary scholars across the social sciences and the humanities to investigate the role of affect and emotion in creating more just societies and institutions.

“With my knowledge of gender equity issues in the Australian context, I hope I will be able to offer a unique and productive contribution to the work being carried out at the centre,” she said.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship is just the latest funding success for Dr Churcher, whose research on affect, imagination, and institutional design has been supported by various internal funding schemes, including a Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC) grant for early-career researchers, and numerous grants from the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. She has also been the recipient of an Endeavour Research Fellowship from the Australian Government, and a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

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