Emma Ross Physiologist podcast

039: Emma Ross on the female athlete and equality in performance cultures


n this episode of the Supporting Champions podcast, Steve interviews Dr. Emma Ross, Head of Physiology at the English Institute of Sport (EIS). They discuss Emma’s background as an endurance runner and rugby player, as well as her current role at the EIS.

Emma reflects on the support she received from her parents and how it influenced her professional and academic work. Her advice to aspiring sport scientists is to actively engage in discussions and debates to develop leadership and communication skills. The conversation moves to Emma’s PhD research, which involved monitoring fatigue mechanisms during physical activity using transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques.

Transitioning from academia to her role at the EIS came with its own set of challenges and lessons, which Emma shares. A significant part of the discussion focuses on her work on the female athlete campaign, aiming to optimize support for female athletes. The campaign covers various aspects including menstrual cycles, taboo topics, equality, and ethics.

Emma also speaks about the behavioral aspects that can either enrich or erode cultures within sport, especially concerning female athlete support. She emphasizes the importance of role models and argues against cultures of secrecy and judgment.

Further, Emma discusses her job-sharing arrangement at the EIS, which allows her to balance her family and career. She extends the conversation to the broader importance of diversifying the workforce in sports and beyond.

The podcast concludes with Emma offering tips for leaders in both sport and business on how to better support and embrace females in the workforce.

Show notes

3:52 – Steve and Emma begin by exploring Emma’s background growing up, her journey in sport as a keen rugby player and endurance runner and the role she currently holds at the EIS.

9:28 – After becoming a mother and embarking on the female athlete project at the EIS, Emma has spent a lot of time reflecting on the support she received from her parents growing up and the influence that has had on her work in academia and sport.

14:42 – Get out and speak out loud – one of Emma’s top pieces of advices for any aspiring sport scientist. Growing up, Emma spent a lot of time in debating groups and acknowledges this accelerating the skills required to lead and influence people.

17:51 – Steve and Emma begin to explore Emma’s PhD research on monitoring the mechanisms of fatigue during physical activity via transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques.

28:25 – After transitioning from PhD studies and academia into her role at the EIS as Head of Physiologist, Emma discusses some of the challenges and lessons learnt from this period.

41:22 – Steve asks Emma to share some of the origins, background, data and insights on the female athlete campaign and how this is now optimising the support of the female athlete within the system.

1:04:38 – Emma discusses some of the behaviours that can enrich or erode the ability to optimise female athlete support, particularly around the importance of role models, removing taboo and ridding cultures of silence, secrecy and judgment.

1:14:50 – Emma extends on the importance of female role models and diversifying the workforce in sport and beyond in order to optimise and innovate.

1:21:08 – Emma expands more on how she now shares her role with another female leader within the EIS so that she can sustainably support and develop her family and career.

1:27:30 – Steve rounds off the discussion by asking Emma what her top tips would be for sport and business leaders to better embrace females in the workforce and as leaders.

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