Dr. Gal Winter – Balance is Key #WomeninScience

To coincide with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Frontiers has today launched a brand new blog series focusing on just that. Over the next year, we will be interviewing and publishing a series of Q&A style interviews with inspiring female researchers from within the Frontiers community about their careers, roles, and views of science. Stay tuned!

Today, journal specialist Leticia Nani Silva speaks to Dr. Gal Winter, a lecturer at the University of New England in Australia. Dr. Winter’s research focuses on the microbiome and how it affects the brain and neurological disorders. Apart from her impressive academic record, Dr. Winter is incredibly interested in the principles of yoga and balance. In her interview we discuss the importance of that balance within the world of academia and within the ‘working from home’ lifestyle. 

Tell me about how you have established yourself as a woman in your field

Dr. Winter: “I never considered ‘being a woman’ as a limiting factor for me to progress within my field. I’m not a ‘woman scientist’. I am a ‘scientist’. I never thought that I had any disadvantage growing up or even progressing within my field. For me the only time I felt like I had to do a lot more ‘as a woman’ was when I became a mother. For me that was when I realized I needed to do more as an academic in order to compete with my peers. This division wasn’t so much between the ‘men’ and ‘women’ in the field, it was more between the ‘parents’ and ‘non-parents’. Even today, I believe there is a lot to learn between balancing motherhood and science.”

Dr. Winter also said that: “On the other hand, becoming a mother really helped me advance in my career – particularly as a teacher. The skill set I learned from being a mother made me a lot more resilient, a lot better at explaining concepts to my students and understanding when they were listening and digesting the information I was relaying to them. Today, I feel the skills I learned both as an academic and a mother allow me to stand up in front of groups of people and feel strong about the message I am putting forward.” 

As someone who is very family-oriented, how do you maintain the balance between home and work?

Dr. Winter: “When people think about balance, they often see it as a static concept, however this is definitely not the case. This is how I became more interested in activities such as yoga. In yoga, it’s all about working on your balance and activating opposing forces.

“For example, in order to lean forward you need to strengthen your back leg. This was counterintuitive to me and helped me a lot when prioritizing my family and my career, my mental health, and so on. Whilst we are all trying to give the same amount of energy to all areas of life, it is important to understand that sometimes one area will have slightly less energy than the other, and that’s okay, as long as the overall balance remains and that you feel good about the division of this balance.” 

“For me it is also important to mention the fact that a lot of women carry this ‘heavy weight’ of guilt on their shoulders, for example: when we’re at work we are thinking about all the things we could be doing for our kids, and similar when you’re at home you think about your work. Therefore, I believe it’s extremely important to understand how to separate tasks and with that this ‘weight’ should come off immediately.” 

Dr. Winter also comments on how the current pandemic has “blurred the line between working at home and relaxing at home”. She mentions how “work is the one that takes over and that you need to force yourself to switch your computer off at the end of the day and spend time either with your family or working on something that will enhance your life skills”. 

We finished the conversation by discussing  some of my past experiences and how I have overcome them by learning how to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes’.

Dr. Winter ended with: “It takes courage to follow up on your past experiences and failures. However, it is mostly about that balance between being confident and being humble.” 

I agree. that balance is the key! I believe we all agree with that after having had a very uncertain year. However, it is all about how we approach the new opportunities next year with a new and balanced mindset that is going to set us up for something greater in the future.”

A huge thank you to Dr. Winter for participating and we look forward to talking and working with you again soon.