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UOW International Women’s Day lunch focuses on importance of balance

Senior Professor Julie Steele delivers keynote address at annual event

Academics and professional staff from all areas of the University of Wollongong (UOW) came together to celebrate International Women’s Day on Tuesday (5 March).

This year, the theme of the day is Balance for Better, with a focus on how to achieve a more gender-balanced world for all.

Senior Professor Julie Steele AM, who has devoted her career to championing research that benefits women, gave the keynote address at the UOW lunch, in which she told the crowd of the challenges she had faced during her career.

After close to 37 years at UOW, Professor Steele, an expert in biomechanics, said her journey had followed an ever-changing path.

After establishing herself as a researcher and lecturer, she then had children at a time when there was minimal support available to working mothers. Like many mothers, she had to juggle the demands that come with having an engaging career and two young children, while completing a PhD. Professor Steele said balance is key, but not in the way most people think.

“I’ve learnt a lot in my time at UOW,” Professor Steele said. “I’ve realised that balance, the theme of International Women’s Day, is not necessarily something that can be achieved on a day to day basis. Rather, it is something that we should be aiming for over the course of our career.”

Professor Steele is the founder and Director of UOW’s Biomechanics Research Laboratory, and Breast Research Australia, which focuses on reducing breast discomfort so all women can participate in sport and physical activity.

Her work has covered the breadth of the human body, from researching the impact of obesity on children, safe footwear to help prevent falls in elderly women, creating wearable technologies for women suffering from lymphoedema, designing the ‘Bionic Bra’—a high-tech, comfortable sports bra to provide support for women—and working with surfers on innovative 3D-printed surfboard fins.

Now that her two children are adults, Professor Steele said balance, to her, now enables her to train for ultra-marathons while maintaining an active research career.

“You can have everything… just not all at the same time,” she said.
In January, Professor Steele was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the economic, social, cultural, and political achievements of women.