How do we get more women into science? A talk with sport psychologist Zoe Knowles

How do we get more women into science? A talk with sport psychologist Zoe Knowles

For the second part in our series to mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we speak with Zoe Knowles, one of LJMU’s top female scientists, about her own experiences and her thoughts on how to encourage more women into science.

Face to Face public engagement event
Zoe, middle, and her colleagues engaging girls at sport science event.

Meet Zoe Knowles, Professor of Engagement and Learning in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Zoe leads on public engagement projects for the School, runs curriculum placement modules for undergraduate and postgraduate students, teaches on the professional doctorate programme and undertakes research within sport psychology and physical activity.

“I was a student here at LJMU and then became a member of staff and have never left!”

Why did you choose to study in your particular field?

“I didn’t choose this field initially, when I arrived at university I wanted to be a PE teacher. I found that working with inspiring lecturers and discovering sport psychology changed my career path and I never looked back. I worked in elite sport as a sport psychology consultant for many years where the time and travel demands can be high and on having a family and less time for everything I began working in children’s physical activity. I now enjoy working in both sport and physical activity across teaching, research and consultancy.”

Do you find there is a lack of women in your field?

“I think psychology is a discipline whereby there is a fairly even gender split. In sport as a domain there remains less representation by women, in fact this is across sport in general including press and media coverage, leadership, coaching and sport governance. Those of us working in those fields have a key role in making sure women’s voices are heard and that we inspire girls into our subjects.”

Are there any women in science who currently inspire you or did inspire you to take up your subject?

Zoe Knowles

“From history I have always admired mathematician Ada Lovelace and Rosalind Franklin. Outside of science I would love to meet Betty Boothroyd. Close to my own work, I admired Prof Lindsey Dugdill, a former LJMU colleague who sadly passed away in 2014 having made an exceptional contribution to the public health and health promotion. I found her a wonderful mentor and inspiration to many supervisees who carry on her research work today.”

How are you helping to get more women/girls engaged in science?

“I am STEM Ambassador and really enjoy meeting girls who, at first, perhaps don’t see sport as a setting where science can impact on practice, and it really can. Having a wider appreciation of science including the social sciences is important. As a sport and exercise scientist being cognisant of other disciplines allied to your own is important whether to provide effective athlete performance solutions or physical activity interventions. I love the books that have emerged in 2017 from Rachel Ignotofsky on ‘women in science’ and ‘women in sport’ – these are great reads and should be in every school library.”

Why is it important to recognise International Day of Women and Girls in Science?

“It is important to raise awareness of inspirational women in the discipline both from history, the present day and indeed the next generation. If we can somehow connect these together and share achievements this could be very powerful.”

If you're inspired by Zoe and interested in studying sport pyschology or another aspect of sport science, why not take a look at the courses within the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences?

Take a look at the other features in this series on women in science:


Exercise help for cancer patients


Marathon World Champion tests herself at LJMU


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