Texas Tech University

Women in Research

TTU sociologist Martha Smithey

Texas Tech University sociologist Martha Smithey tells female students who are interested in an academic career to know they are smart, capable, have more power than they realize, and to stand up for themselves and their ideas.

Sociologist Martha Smithey

During Spring 2020, Texas Tech celebrates women faculty who exemplify excellence in research, scholarship, creative activity, teaching, and mentoring.


Martha Smithey is an associate professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work. Her areas of specialization include criminology, family violence, and research methods. Her current research interests are violence against children, intimate partner violence, and parenting.

In the question-and-answer session that follows, Smithey shares the basics of her success.

What inspired you to work in your field/area of expertise?

I grew up in a small, southern town where I saw a lot of social injustice and unfairness. With time, I realized women and children were often those who experienced the brunt of the consequences. Studying violence and the home, I soon learned the profound level of connection of these social dimensions. I became motivated to understand the social forces creating the cultural and economic inequities of women and mothering that result in dire, desperate conditions under which many women and their children live.

Who inspired you to pursue academia?

I started college believing studying the law would be the most effective career path for understanding social injustice and crime. I declared pre-law as my major. However, I soon discovered sociology. My first quarter in college, I took Social Problems for my social science elective. It was taught by a dynamic, challenging woman named Rose Daigle. I took as many courses as I could with her. I realized sociology/criminology fit my interests and career goals. I have been majoring in sociology ever since. All my degrees are in sociology with criminology and the family as my major areas.

What would you tell your female students interested in pursuing an academic career?

To know you are smart, capable, and have more power than you realize. Gender socialization sustains a culture where females are expected to defer to men, wait for men, and not challenge them. Consequently, females are easily intimidated because they question their own ability, even when they have better ideas and solutions. Don't let your socialization experience define you. You have the power to stand up for yourself. Do it.

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