International Women’s Day 2018 #WomenOfStirling – Dr Karen Watchman

Karen Watchman Internationa Women's Day 2018

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #PressForProgress. What does the word “progress” mean to you in regards to women and gender?

A move towards full realisation globally of the human rights of women with learning disabilities to choice in lifestyle, relationships and where each person calls home.

What is your role at the University of Stirling?

Senior Lecturer in Ageing, Frailty and Dementia and Programme Director for MSc Global Issues in Gerontology and Ageing Currently working alongside co-researchers with a learning disability to implement non-drug interventions with people who have a learning disability and dementia.

Why did you choose this career path?

I worked for twenty years in the voluntary sector before moving to a full time academic post. I supported families and people with Down’s syndrome at a time when life expectancy was increasing for people with Down’s syndrome. Along with this came the realisation of a link between Down’s syndrome and early onset dementia, but no information or research-based resources to support families or people with Down’s syndrome themselves. I started to develop material whilst Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland and then moved full time into research and teaching in this field. I’m still here! and continue to ensure that research is shared in accessible ways with families, people with learning disabilities and staff who provide support.

What do you love about your job?

Continuing to work alongside people with learning disabilities and their families, teaching students online from all over the world about ageing and gerontology (digital education is the way forward!) and learning from students all over the world about ageing in different contexts.

What impact do you hope your research/work will have?

Increased awareness about dementia in marginalised groups and strategies for support.

Did you face any barriers in your career and how did you overcome them?

Deciding to study for a PhD (relatively!) later in life.

What does ‘gender equity’ mean to you?

Recognition that not all disabilities are visible.  Women and girls with disabilities are marginalised in multiple ways and are at higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

Name a woman that has inspired you, either professionally or personally

Peggy Fray who cared for her sister, Kathleen, with Down’s syndrome and dementia. Peggy was an early advocate in the 1990s when we were learning about the link between Down’s syndrome and dementia. She encouraged me to develop resources for families so others didn’t struggle as she had. As well as Rosie, an actress who happens to have Down’s syndrome, star of Jenny’s Diary.


How will you #PressforProgress in 2018?

Find out how you can take part by visiting the International Women’s Day 2018 website.

Join in the conversation on social media and use the hashtags #IWD2018, #InternationalWomen’sDay2018 and #PressForProgress.

Theme by the University of Stirling