On your bike

16 September 2013

Focus on making cycling more attractive to women, says Katie Rowe.

When Katie Rowe completed her Exercise and Sport Science degree in 2005, she had no idea where it would lead.

But come 2013 she has a very clear view of her future - undertaking research that is set to help women everywhere improve their quality of life.

On completion of her initial degree, Deakin offered Katie an opportunity she describes as ‘unique and valuable’: a year of Honours study that would also see her graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce.

"This was a good way to supplement Exercise and Sport Science with business," she says. "I completed a major in marketing and I was fascinated with the level of knowledge marketers have with respect to human behaviour."

Back in her school days, Katie says physical education, sport and health were her main interest areas.

So a sport and exercise science degree was the logical choice. Deakin’s Burwood location suited her but she also researched courses at other universities.

"Deakin’s course required the highest ENTER (now ATAR), plus I had a family friend who had completed the degree and recommended it. It seemed the best fit for me," she said.

As her study progressed, Katie’s ideas about what she wanted to do evolved. A work placement in a gym proved helpful for skill development but also showed her ‘what I didn’t want to do’.

While accompanying a friend to a meeting about the honours program, she suddenly found herself involved when a professor encouraged her to take on a research project.

"I looked at the AFL’s Auskick program, aspects of marketing and the issue of parental involvement," she said.

"It’s a modern sport, very positive and very successful."

Following her honours year, Katie worked in corporate health promotion for the next couple of years. This experience further motivated her to take up the challenge to improve the area she is passionate about by furthering her own knowledge.

"It made me realise that not all environments use evidence-based practice," she said. "It raised my interest in how it all works and how I could implement best practice to encourage people to be active."

In 2009 Katie took on some casual teaching work at Deakin, taking classes in the sport management, psychology and health areas.

The following year she began her PhD research in the area of women’s involvement in recreational cycling. The work has revealed some interesting findings.

"I found that women are under-represented in cycling participation statistics and scope existed to expand offerings for women," she said.

"We need to focus on providing social cycling groups and supportive learning environments women can engage with and not feel intimidated."

Women often feel concerned about factors like their safety on the roads and are reluctant to ask questions in a bicycle store, Katie said.

Now that her research is almost complete, Katie is eagerly anticipating her future.

"I have several options to explore," she says. "I would love to do some more teaching and further research at the uni, or I could work with a local council, implementing and delivering programs.

"I would love to translate what I have learned into action, to make sure it is less intimidating for women to engage in fun forms of activity."

Katie Rowe's Three Minute Thesis presentation.

Katie Rowe We need to focus on providing social cycling groups and supportive learning environments women can engage with and not feel intimidated, says Katie Rowe.

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