Meet Dr Julia Carins – Throughout our month-long celebration of International Women’s Day, we will continue to showcase profiles of a series of powerhouse women who have made significant contributions to Defence and Science.
Today, we introduce Dr Julia Carins, Associate Professor of Social Marketing, Social Marketing @ Griffith Research Centre, Griffith University.
Julia is the head of a key research project for Defence that utilises her comprehensive training and research in social marketing principles to improve the health of personnel.
Getting to Know Dr Julia Carins
What are your current roles and responsibilities?
I am an Associate Professor of Social Marketing within the Social Marketing @ Griffith research centre at Griffith University. I lead a large-scale research project for Defence that uses social marketing principles to positively influence the eating behaviour of personnel to benefit their health and performance.
Social marketing is a behaviour change discipline, and in essence, my research seeks to equip personnel with the mindset and skills to eat well for their roles, but it also seeks to create supportive infrastructure around those individuals to support them to do so.
More information can be found on the Griffith University website here: https://www.griffith.edu.au/griffith-business-school/social-marketing-griffith/who-we-are/julia-carins
What are your career highlights to date?
A highlight has been making a transition to social marketing. It provided the opportunity to combine my passions—the strengths of behavioural sciences (to understand behaviour) and business (to find optimal strategies within a system to maximise progress and growth).
I have enjoyed helping Defence colleagues develop a greater appreciation for the value of understanding why people do what they do. And then to see how that understanding helps us create better products, services, or programs, that in turn, result in positive outcomes.
What are your strengths, and how have these affected your career to date?
People tell me I’m organised; I am a good communicator, and I’m good at motivating people. These strengths have allowed me to work with and through people to achieve outcomes and to help them to accomplish the most they can.
I love helping people see the bigger picture, or a path forward, and that moment when they can see the possibilities and how to make it a reality.
Do you have a favourite quote?
One that has resonated for me in a Defence context is:
“You can’t turn a frigate on a five-cent piece”.
I’m sure that could mean many things to many people, but it reminds me that even though change is often needed (or advantageous!), it can take time, and both focused and sustained effort is required to make it happen. And you need a crew!
The Defence Industry
In terms of Defence, what are some of the innovations you are most proud to have worked on?
I’m proud of the work we have done to identify behavioural influences in the food environment and improve food services and dining spaces for military personnel.
Over the years, we have reached thousands of diners, and our modifications have led to positive behavioural outcomes for these diners.
We have also worked with other partners in these spaces to understand the impact of their innovations, measuring the uptake of new healthier food options, usage of services, and the satisfaction diners have with these experiences. This has given these partners the confidence and justification they needed to roll out improvements on a wider scale.
How do you believe the defence industry has evolved over the last ten years?
Defence Science and Industry has become a much more collaborative space. There is a genuine recognition that existing national expertise can be harnessed and combined with Defence contextual expertise to progress the challenges that Defence faces. It creates space for authentic sharing of ideas, formation of lasting partnerships, and within that, the achievement of better outcomes.
What Alliance initiatives excite you most?
I am most excited by the opportunities for our emerging researchers! Giving HDR students a vision of and experience with the industries they will contribute to is so valuable early in their research career. It enables them to develop relationships that will create career opportunities—or make them better researchers if they stay in academia.
Women in Defence and STEM…
How do you juggle your family and work responsibilities and strike a good balance between each?
Like most – I do the best I can! My family and work are incredibly important to me, and it can be challenging to find a balance.
Over time I feel I have developed an ability to use snippets of time in creative ways. Thinking through an idea while waiting to pick up one of my children from sport, or doing something around the house or walking the dog. I feel it makes my focussed sessions more effective.
My family also gives me support and strength, so it goes both ways.
What unique perspectives/talents do you think women bring to the industry?
So many! Several women I’ve known and worked with are excellent connectors of people and resources. They are strong leaders and advocates for their teams and fields. Others are a quiet undercurrent of strength and support, going above and beyond to keep things moving forward and running smoothly.
Generally, women lead, manage and contribute within their roles in different ways than men do. This may not always be what others are used to. But given the space to play to their strengths—women will use these talents very effectively.
2022 International Women’s Day
As a woman in Defence and STEM, how have you been affected by gender bias, inequality, discrimination, stereotyping or bias in the community, workplace or study?
Like many, there have been moments in my career where I felt the impact of a gender bias—but I am fortunate that the positive experiences have mostly outweighed the negatives. I know this has not been the case for everyone.
I have also been privileged to work with people (both women and men) who have valued the different perspectives and working styles of all of their team members and offered regular reassurance or support.
How has your answer to the previous question affected you and your career growth?
I feel like this is a sliding doors question—what might have been if I didn’t have that experience?
I think it has made me determined not to be defined by my gender and not to let implicit or explicit bias stop me from moving forward.
I have focused on what I can do to lessen the impact of any gender bias for anyone else around me. Ie. What can I do to highlight to others what women can achieve? How can I show that following a non-traditional career path can be rewarding and prosperous? Can I support or coach others to make the most of their strengths and unique talents even if their approach does not conform to the conventional or traditional way of doing?
What do you think needs to happen to elicit change and progress?
I feel like International Women’s Day in 2022 will be more important than ever. Not because of a change in gender issues – but because of the important national conversation we are having about the treatment of women.
We need to accept that gender bias is not isolated to any industry, nor is any industry free of it. Some important steps towards change include recognising and calling out bias and inequity—in all forms and across all sectors and industries.
Supportive initiatives need to be widely available and accessible. But we also need to make sure they are genuine, not tokenistic, and importantly that they are also not (unintentionally) stigmatising.
Breaking the bias is dependent on not seeing or perpetuating a distinction between genders. Highlighting ‘the help’ can backfire because women want to be recognised for what they are achieving, not for taking advantage of opportunities to get there.
Highlighting those who are achieving provides role models for other women to build their confidence. It is even better when they are drawing on their strengths and doing it their own way!
Social Marketing Improving the Health and Performance of Defence Personnel
Initially, social marketing may not seem to be directly aligned or relevant to Defence and science. However, women such as Dr Julia Carin demonstrate how the unique approach and perspectives of women can benefit the industry in unexpected ways.
The QDSA team congratulates Dr Carins and her team for their work and the innovative use of their research to change the lives of Defence personnel for the better.
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The Queensland Defence Science Alliance (QDSA) is a university-led initiative to grow and connect an agile Defence innovation ecosystem, leveraging Queensland’s strengths, to deliver trusted solutions to meet Defence requirements.