On 11 February it was International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Which is a UN Event apparently. To be honest my usual way of tackling gender imbalance in science is just to try and get on with being both a woman and a scientist. At the same time. I know. Its incredible.
Seriously though, of course it is important to have talented people working in science from all gender definitions, races, backgrounds, orientations and political views. Science is supposed to be merit-based and objective, and minimise implicit biases in its analysis and so I presume also in its places of work. I’m lucky to work in a field where (at least) gender imbalance is definitely reducing, though it remains inbalanced, and it is certainly not (yet) a very racially representative research community.
Have a look at this figure from Hulbe, Wang and Omanney (2010) analysing the gender of authors of submissions to the Journal of Glaciology over its history:
Contributions to the Journal and Annals of Glaciology from 1947 to 2009, classified by author sex. Grey bars indicate male authors and black bars indicate female authors, and the total number of female authors is indicated until it is consistently larger than 10. (a) Classified first authorships. (b) All classified authorships. The author database was provided by the IGS in August 2010. The author classification is geographically diverse and we were able to identify author sex for approximately 72% of all papers and 70% of first authors. Emphasis was placed on classifying authors cited for more than one paper.
Still some way to go I’d say. But my own experience feels quite different. I’ve been exposed to some great female and male role models, worked with many female co-authors, and in departments that feel quite well balanced gender-wise (maybe aside from Edinburgh University where the glaciology staff remain very male I think). A sample of female scientists that have directly inspired and impressed me during my career include Ruth Robinson, Dorthe Dahl Jensen, Liz Morris, Almut Iken, Catherine Ritz, Anna Wirbel, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Sarah Gleeson, Emily Collier, Bethan Davies, Miriam Jackson, Anne-Marie Nutall. Some of these women I know well, others hardly at all, only through their work and leadership in our field or in teaching, or in outreach.
Nevertheless, the numbers show that there are still fewer women at the top and that many young school students are still put off various careers and passions due to gender biases, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight a few of the programs and initiatives I know of that aim to support girls and women in science and technology in general, and in my research field in particular, so here goes with my very incomplete list:
First off, I’d like to say that my salary is currently paid by a grant specifically targeting getting women to the senior researcher levels and eligible to apply for professorships. Thank you FWF Elise Richter Grant.
STEM women network
Women in Polar Science network
Homeward Bound leadership program
Inspiring Girls expeditions
Wikipedia list of organizations for women in science
So, lets be having you ladies 🙂
I’ll close with an obvious declaration that I am a feminist and I can’t understand any person who is not. I resonate most with Cheris Kramaraes famous line that “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”, which makes the whole thing well beyond discussion, and also always makes me laugh.
Please let me know if there are more good resources and networks to list here and I can keep this list growing. In the meantime the glaciologists among you might enjoy reading the article quoted above:
Hulbe, C. L., Wang, W., & Ommanney, S. (2011). Women in glaciology, a historical perspective. Journal of Glaciology, 56(200), 944–964. http://doi.org/10.3189/002214311796406202 [pdf]