Gender balance in hydrology

Gender balance in hydrology

Contributed by Bettina Schaefli, a HEPEX guest columnist for 2014

At this year’s EGU in Vienna, gender balance in hydrology has (again) been heavily discussed – due to a question I raised during the business meeting of the Hydrological Sciences Division.

gender_equality_man_woman_on_seesa_450I asked whether we might want to change the composition of the medal committees to get more female awardees (the recent awardees in hydrology are displayed here for the Henry Darcy Medal and here for the John Dalton Medal).

The question had an easy answer (the composition is imposed by the EGU council), but generated a passionate debate turning around the “fundamental” question whether we (women) accuse men to promote only or mostly other men – a debate which was understandably not very well received by part of the audience.

The problem of gender imbalance at higher hierarchical levels in science (as in too many other fields) is, to my view, not anymore due to explicit and deliberate discrimination – BUT it is also not entirely due to objectively explainable factors; invoked factors typically include motherhood or the care of parents. Explanations like a lack of interest for hard science or for powerful positions do, however, still appear in many related discussions.

I am convinced that there are unexplainable mechanisms at work, just as it is now commonly agreed that the gender pay gap partly results from processes that cannot easily be pinned-down (see the unexplainable gender pay gap in Switzerland here) and that it may arise even in companies that explicitly try to overcome gender pay gaps.

salaire
Source : Mix & Remix. The text says : “This is a very hard problem! … you have a male engineer … and a female engineer … and you should obtain an equal salary!” (reproduced with permission of the author)

One might now ask whether it is useful to discuss gender balance during conference business meetings or in a blog like this one.

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#hepex scientists. #womeninscience #egu2014 (left to right: Patricia Trambauer, Sara Liguori, Maria-Helena Ramos, Bettina Schaefli, Liz Stephens, Hannah Cloke, Marie-Amélie Boucher)

First of all, as a scientist, I simply would like to understand why things are how they are and discussing is of course a very good way forward. Second, I am convinced that part of the gender imbalance in my professional environment is caused by the lack of role models.

Accordingly, I try hard to show my female students how a female career with family (and sports!) could look like. But I also continue to raise the topic in professional discussions because, contrary to what many young male and female colleagues might think, we are not there yet.

The gender gap is not exclusively due to explainable factors that we might want to accept. In other words, there is still too much epistemic uncertainty involved here to be confident that the situation is evolving towards a desirable state.

Holmes et al. (2008), in their very interesting article on gender imbalance in US geosciences, offer an enlightening definition of such a desirable state in terms of gender parity: “a department will have achieved gender parity when every student in it can look at the faculty and see at least one person whose life they wish to emulate.” (Holmes et al., 2008, p. 81).

The big open question is here of course what we can do about this in our everyday work.

A possible response is the one heard by several participants at the hydrology business meeting: become more pro-active when it comes to look for female candidates to promote into positions at all levels. Not with the idea of a quota in mind but with the idea that, given existing structural and historical barriers (Holmes et al., 2008), the recruitment of female candidates requires perhaps a bit of an extra effort.

Reference:

Holmes, M. A., O’Connell, S., Frey, C., and Ongley, L.: Gender imbalance in US geoscience academia, Nat. Geosci., 1, 79-82, 10.1038/ngeo113, 2008.

20 thoughts on “Gender balance in hydrology

  1. Thank you for a very good post on gender bias in science.

    Below is a link to post on a news-blog on nature.com that confirms this bias. One interesting statement in this post is that women and minorities are as biased as white men. We need all to be pro-active and work seriously on bias correction in all dimensions.

    Enjoy the blog post on nature.com:
    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/04/discrimination-starts-even-before-grad-school-study-finds.html

  2. By coïncidence, google celebrates today the birthday of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, believed to be the first influential femal mathematician, born in 1718 (luckily not in Switzerland but in Italy). And the The Guardian article on this celebration refers their very recent article entitled “Women in technology: no progress on inequality for 10 years, which highlights the rather sad reality that “the situation in the EU is worse than in developing nations and the US, where the proportion of women in leadership roles is higher.” The article also cites another interesting observation by one of the authors of the study underlying the article: ““A lot of companies thought that (..) women were leaving to have families, but more recent data tends to show that women have become very intolerant of situations where they feel men who are not as qualified as them have been promoted over them, frequently just leaving.”

    1. The reading of Maria Gaetana Agnesi Wikipedia record should guide also modern science associations. I quote:

      “Pope Benedict XIV, ¨[..] wrote her a complimentary letter and sent her a gold wreath and a gold medal”.

      So we find somewhere in history a medal awarded to women in science, lets look for open minded “hydrology Popes” taking example from this Pope.

  3. From the same article in the Guardian mentioned by Bettina, it is also interesting to note that there is also an issue of “mentality” around the question. In the article, it says that “(…) the promotion structure in technology is often focused on the “hero mentality”, where people work very hard to fix problems after they happen. Men generally associate with the hero mentality, but women are often better at identifying and rectifying problems before they happen – but that means they are seen to be doing less hard and crucial work.”

    This makes me think that it might be that the proposal suggested during the meeting in Vienna (i.e., to have more nominees in the award competitions of the hydrological sciences division) is probably nice but not enough if criteria for “excellence” is not adapted to answer to views men AND women have of what a successful career is.

    Additionally to Kolbjorn’s comment, I would like to mention also this special issue of Nature, worth looking at it too: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/women/index.html

    Also, the website on Gender Equality of the European Commission offers nice insights: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/index_en.htm

    Finally, more data about women in science can be found here in a nice interactive presentation: http://www.uis.unesco.org/ScienceTechnology/Pages/women-in-science-leaky-pipeline-data-viz.aspx

  4. Balance in scientific associations is a timely issue, that it is widely discussed today. It is certainly appropriate to get any opportunity to discuss it further, and therefore this post is extremely interesting and deserving more contributions and attention. Imbalance in science often arises from lack of awareness rather than being induced on purpose. Therefore promoting the value and awareness of balance, in the governance of scientific associations and the community, is already a very significant step forward. The key challenge, which deserves attention and universal consideration, is to identify the appropriate strategy to promote balance without running the risk of artificial boosting. In fact, the latter would be counterproductive for the category that one aims to promote. A positive and forward looking attitude is needed, by considering that balance in hydrology is considerably improving, as I will discuss in the conclusion of this post.

    Balance in science is multifaceted and should be considered in its entirety. It may refer to gender, geographical location, ethnics, discipline, age and others. Gender balance, geographical balance and ethnic balance are perhaps the most important. It is a fact that in some disciplines and some contexts scientists belonging to a given gender and/or ethnic, or from given regions of the world, have a difficult access to science and recognition. Identifying the most efficient solution to the problem, while avoiding artificial boosting, requires a rigorous assessment of the current situation. One should not move forward by following feelings, but rather basing on rigorous statistics that should lead to the identification of an optimal target.

    In science the situation is complicated by the fact that different disciplines have different attractiveness with respect to gender, ethnics and geographical location. In some cases, a 50%-50% gender situation is an unfeasible target that may lead to artificial boosting. For instance hydrology, in many countries, is rooted in engineering which is not equally attracting on genders. A preliminary assessment of the affiliations to a discipline is needed, for different age ranges. This assessment would support the identification of an optimal target in terms of distribution of scientific recognitions. Also, it would help to determine if a recruiting problem exists, by comparing the related statistics with analogous ones that refer to undergraduate and graduate students in the related disciplines. If a recruiting problems is identified (e.g., scientists that may have a gender or ethnic preference when recruiting Ph.D. students) then a community effort is needed (and scientific associations should promote awareness) to seek a balanced selection.

    Speaking of recognition and awards, and focusing on gender balance, one notes that typically the majority of the awards are assigned to established persons, i.e. a category for which a 50%-50% target in terms of gender balance is infeasible in hydrology. In fact, the above statistics on the community’s affiliates should lead to the identification of a feasible X%-Y% target, which should be close to the gender percentage in the same age range. Then, it is the responsibility of the governance of the scientific association to make sure that the selection is carried out impartially. This scope is reached by making sure that medal committee members are impartial. Unfortunately, balance in the composition of the various committees helps, but it is not sufficient to ensure impartiality. We should promote the presence in committees of impartial peers regardless of their distribution. Moreover, the assessment should be supervised. In fact, an essential requirement is a careful overseeing of the selection process by the governance of the scientific associations. The discussion leading to the selection of recognitions should take place under the supervision of a super-partes committee, whose members must have the right to express opinions. They are expected to make sure that the evaluation is balanced and to report to the association’s board. This is the procedure that is adopted by EGU, where the Union Award Committee oversees all the evaluations of the Union. This solution is sometimes criticized because it looks not protective enough of the confidentiality of award committee members, but it is essential to ensure balance.

    Furthermore, we should be aware that medal committees cannot do anything if a balanced set of nominations is not received. Scientific associations cannot get to target if the community in its entirety does not support balance (remember that medal committee members and board members of associations often cannot submit nominations). It is the responsibility of the community to exploit the opportunities given by the scientific societies in the best way. If a community has a X%-Y% percentage of affiliates in terms of gender, one should expect a X%-Y% distribution of nominations. Reaching the latter target is our task.

    In summary, the concept that I would like to promote is that balance is a delicate issue, is multifaceted and should be sought by both the community and the scientific associations. We should absolutely avoid to make the assumption that it is not our problem. Claiming a balanced composition of committees is just not enough (and it is impossible to reach for all forms of balance). The way forward is to set out a feasible target and to seek impartiality with regard to all the forms of balance in assessing scientific merits. And, finally, it is the responsibility of all of us to support scientific associations to reach the target. Preparing nominations is not an easy task, but collecting a diverse set of nominees is a necessary step to get there.

    Finally, let me conclude with some positive considerations, which refer to hydrology and gender balance. Thanks to initiatives like this discussion and the efforts of the community and scientific associations, one can see several positive developments. For instance, let’s consider the EGU winner of the Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) Award in the last three years:

    Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) winners in 2013 (20 women over 36 awardees)
    Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) winners in 2012 (24 women over 42 awardees)
    Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) winners in 2011 (20 women over 37 awardees)

    Moreover, let’s have a look at the editorial boards of HESS (19 women over 91 editors) and WRR (18 women over 100 editors). The percentage of women is close or above 20%, which in my perception is the percentage of affiliated women in our community for the related age range (according to an assessment of the hydrological literature that I personally carried out one year ago to seek gender balance in hydrology). Furthermore, one year ago 2 women were selected as editors of WRR. They are the first women editors in the history of the journal.

    Speaking of IAHS, I think it is encouraging to note that the Panta Rhei decades 2013-2022, that was launched one year ago, counts 3 women among the 6 Target Leaders.

    And finally, let’s consider that the visionary session of EGU Hydrology this year, which is the most important session of the hydrology programme and is made up by invited speakers only, reached a 50%-50% percentage in terms of gender balance (and a quite good geographical balance as well) and was characterized by outstanding talks. These are significant and positive signals. With the support of the community we can do much better in the future!

    Alberto Montanari

    1. I think the use of statistics to help us in raising awareness and being proactive is a very good step to take and Montanari’s detailed comment is very helpful in this sense. If I remember well the issue was also raised during the HS meeting in Vienna (by Lena Tallaksen, if I’m not mistaken in the credits) to better understand if the problem is indeed in the lack of women nominees: what is the proportion for both nominees and awardees in both genders? What ‘success’ ratio do we get at the end? I don’t know if we have these numbers available or if we can find them somewhere.

      The X%-Y% gender target issue (also well presented in the comment above) is worth of thinking of when looking after gender balance. I can see two aspects here:

      – At one hand, there is the ‘current situation’: what do we have now? What is the gender proportion in EGU members and, more specifically, as far as we are concerned, in attendees, presenters, authors, etc. of the hydrological sessions? (but again I don’t know if we have access to these data).
      – At the other hand, there is the ‘target situation’: what do we want to have in the future? Do we want to keep the existing situation (supposing we know what it is)? Is it balanced regarding the gender proportions of our students (Bachelors or PhD candidates) today? What future are we preparing for our young scientists in terms of gender equality?

      The 50%-50% target may be infeasible today in hydrology (I think we have convincing arguments in Montanari’s comment), but I ask myself: what should we aim at in the future? What can we do to encourage the next generation concerning equal opportunities?

      I also agree that several positive developments have been made at EGU (e.g., OSP as mentioned above), but still there is some room for improvements. In general, I am more on the ‘half full side’ of the glass, but we cannot forget that:

      – the “Meet the expert in hydrology” session organized for young scientists in 2013 and in 2014 had, both, a 0%-100% proportion.
      – A similar session for young scientists at the IAHS Assembly in Goteborg in 2013 (here the focus was on “How to become a successful scientist: pros and cons of research career pathways”) had 0 woman out of 1 keynote speaker, and 2 women and 3 men in the panel discussion.
      – Among the 22 Henry Darcy and John Dalton Medallists of the HS division, we have 1 woman, and the Outstanding Young Scientists award (since 2012) has never seen a woman winner.

      With discussions like that I do think we can be more proactive today and indeed do much better in the future, encouraging a more balanced environment (and not only in terms of gender, but also regarding cultural diversity, for instance) that will only benefit ourselves and our scientific achievements.

    2. I would like to make two important comments to Alberto’s input:

      i) Alberto mentions that “hydrology is rooted in engineering which is not equally attracting on genders”. I think that we should try to overcome this argument as much as possible. Engineering is not more or less attractive on women or on men, it is the cultural and educational context that discourages women to follow a mathematical career path. Here in Switzerland, it is still like if as a 16 year old girl you choose to play football … And having a 3 year old daughter, I am confronted daily with the fact that in all books, all engineers, physicians etc are men. Why should she aspire becoming one of them?

      This brings me to the 2nd point:

      ii) I think that Alberto made a great contribution by increasing the number of women working with him for WRR and IAHS. Having more female scientists in all committees is certainly the best way to ensure that young female researchers are more likely to aspire to become a leader in their field.

      Just as an example: Switzerland had during a few years “all of a sudden” (no quota imposed) more female “ministers” (Bundesräte) than men (see the nice picture here). At that time, it was normal to have gouvernment images in the news that show only women (example here). This was a very important step to make the gender connotation of “Bundesrat” disappear.

  5. This gender balance issue in hydrology that was raised at the EGU is, to some extent, in total contradiction with what I often hear here.

    According to many of my colleagues (civil engineering program at UQAC), hydrology is considered a more « feminine » specialization compared to structural engineering for instance. I don’t exactly know why. Maybe because environmental sciences could be associated to a more caring personality (as in caring for the environment) and that according to stereotypes women are supposed to « take care »? Some time ago, while discussing how we could recruit more women into engineering, it was suggested that we should promote a specialization in hydrology because that would make engineering more attractive to them.

    I personally don’t think that hydrology is either feminine or masculine, but it is interesting to note that while some people perceive hydrology as a field where there are more women, the reality proves that it is in fact not the case.

  6. My personal experience (at work, and in my family) suggests that some ‘small’ actions can be taken to help improve the situation, and this is what I have been very keen to promote at my workplace throughout the years. While on the more general issues of whether to take any ‘positive action’ to increase the percentage of females, I have some fixed feelings.
    Let’s start looking at some ‘small’ actions that can deliver quick and effective improvements and changes! We should aim to make work flexibility more acceptable, since this can help females to consider a scientific career. We should promote actions that would make it easier (for both females and males) to raise children, e.g. by helping them with day care arrangements. When children are born, we should make it fully acceptable to our organizations that males take paternity leave, and encourage them to do so.
    Generally speaking, we should encourage and practice ‘management by output’ rather than ‘management by input’, i.e. valuing and appraising people based on what they have delivered, rather then how they have delivered, how many hours they were in the office, and whether they have delivered by working in a specific location (clearly taking into account all the possible necessary requirements for effective and efficient team work!).
    On the more general issue of ‘positive actions’, in 2011 I was invited to give a talk at the European Meteorological Society on ‘Gender situation and practices at ECMWF’. I looked at some ECMWF statistics based on the period 2006-2010, and I found that ~30% of our recruits were females, and that also the percentage of female applicants was ~33%. The fact that the two percentages are rather close, suggests that we were not doing any positive or negative action/discrimination. I then looked at the % of females working at ECMWF at higher levels, and found that the percentages were lower, at between 17 and 30%, depending on the precise level, thus suggesting that it was clearly more difficult for females to progress and reach responsibility levels (a known problem also in many other sectors, the so call ‘glass ceiling’). Another number that is worth to quote, which came from one of the presentations at that meeting, was that the percentage of female taking a degree in Math/Physics/Meteorology was about 40-50% (with percentages varying across Europe). These percentages indicate a clear downward trend: from a pool of about 50% female graduates, only about 30% was working in our field, with an even lower percentage of them achieving responsibility/managerial positions.
    The obvious question is whether we should we encourage ‘positive actions’ to increase these percentages. On the one hand, it could definitely help. It might actually be a necessary step if we want to address the problem in a reasonable short time period. On the other hand, if the aim of the scientific institutions where we work is to recruit, retain and promote the most talented people, we should avoid to introduce any positive/negative action. This is a key question that each organization should consider and address. The answer might depend on each specific case.

  7. One of the reasons why I have such respect for my current workplace is the seriousness and openness with which the organisation discusses and reviews gender equality, including issues such as unconscious bias (in women and men) leading to discrimination, unequal representation of women in decision making roles and barriers to progression for young female researchers.

    In the UK we are fortunate to have the Athena Swan charter for universities http://www.athenaswan.org.uk/content/history-and-principles which is evidence based, seriously pursued by UK institutions and thus really helping to alter cultural attitudes. Some of the Athena Swan Principles and the relevant details and examples might be useful to consider in our Hydrological Organisations (such as the EGU Hydrology Division).

    One of the issues raised in the Division meeting was a need to be aware of unconscious bias (and sadly sometimes conscious bias) which is a real phenomenon that we need to consider. As is the proven tendency of more women than men to be reluctant to self promote. There are of course further issues around maternity (and paternity) which vary geographically and institutionally, career breaks, inflexible working/meeting practices and many other issues. These can all result in a status quo where women could be missed out for medals or other leadership/decision making roles.

    The Athena Swan fact sheet on organisational culture http://www.athenaswan.org.uk/sites/default/files/Organisational%20Culture_0.pdf also discusses 3 issues which are important to consider for a healthy organisation:
    1. Openness & inclusivity
    2. Roles and responsibilities
    3. Visibility of women

    Many of these issues have been raised by previous comments, and it is great to see so much discussion and practice sharing happening here in this forum.

    My recommendation is also that a discussion about gender equality should be freely pursued in all relevant fora (including division meetings). If there are concerns raised then they should be listened to, discussed and followed up further in order to resolve them. One of the main criticisms that I believe was made in the Division meeting and also elsewhere was that ‘this is not the place to be discussing this’ and I wholeheartedly disagree. We are certainly not yet at a place where the fora and mechanisms to consider the above matters are formally in place, and it really should also be normal business to take these issues extremely seriously. I was certainly glad when Bettina raised the issue in Vienna and has continued with her thoughts in this piece.

    I encourage everyone to look at Athena Swan and the other resources discussed in previous comments. I would like to see us retain all our excellent early career scientists in Hydrology so we can make even greater leaps forward in the science, and ensuring that we are doing all we can to promote gender equality is key to that.

  8. I found this discussion extremely interesting. The Athena Swan Principles is an information that I was missing. I fully agree that unconscious bias is one of the greatest risks.

    I believe that EGU is fully willing to provide all the statistics that one may need. Part of them are already available as EGU started monitoring balance (in several forms) in 2008 under the presidency of Tuija Pulkkinen. I am willing to provide the information that I have. My suggestion is to focus on the broad situation (at the international and EGU levels) of geosciences that offers a wide panorama that may help to assess the strengths and weaknesses of hydrology.

    Btw, yesterday I received this message that I am sure many of you already know. I am posting it below for your interest.

    Best,
    Alberto Montanari

    ***
    Dear Colleague

    We would like to draw to your attention the upcoming Gender Summit 4 – EU, being held at the European Commission Charlemagne Building. The event will be held under the theme “From Ideas to Markets: Excellence in mainstreaming gender into research, innovation, and policy” and will focus on gender as a cross cutting topic in Horizon 2020, the latest 80bn Euro Research and Innovation funding programme of the European Commission.

    The event will bring together experts from research, industry and policy to consider gender research evidence and the ways of improving the quality and impact of research and innovation through the inclusion of gender in science knowledge making and application.

    Go to http://www.gender-summit.com to find out more and register.

  9. I just received this link from an Australian colleague, a public lecture on the under-representation of women in academia by the Australian National University; the abstract advances two additional hypotheses about why women have less success in science: i) women spend less time presenting talks and ii) a key non-structural bottleneck might already be the choice of the undergraduate major.

  10. It is in the interest of the hydrological sciences to attract the most talented people and it is very unlikely that these are mostly male. Ergo: whatever the reason for under-representation of women, the science is missing out. That should concern any hydrologist, male or female.

  11. I have read with interest the discussion on gender balance in hydrology and thanks to Bettina Schaefli for initiating it, both at EGU and through this blog and to all contributors for keeping it active. The discussion originated in the lack of female members on the medal committees and also the few female medalists in hydrology, but also raises more fundamental question on gender imbalance in academia and in particular at higher hierarchical levels. I have had a personal engagement for gender balance and equality in research since many years, but even more so in recently as my accumulated experience tells me that there are structural barriers for women in academia that require awareness as all levels. A list of interesting papers and comments that I recommend for further reading for those interested is given at the end.

    AGU already raised the discussion about gender bias and awards in a study published in 2011. The results suggest that implicit bias in favor of male candidates still influences awardee selection. However, similar to EGU, the low nomination rate for women research awards suggests that geoscientists overlook their female colleagues when it comes to nominating their peers. The study also presents recommendations on how to minimize the gender bias, which could guide the work to be undertaken at EGU. There is a need to encourage a culture that is gender sensitive and transparent in all aspects of decision making and evaluation. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011EO470002/pdf

    Fix the women, not the system
    Actions against gender imbalance are often taken at the individual level (e.g. support for international visits, mentoring, training courses), all to increase the qualifications of the candidate. This is fine, but not sufficient and may add to the challenge by placing the responsibility of the problem (gender bias) on the woman only, “work harder and you will be successful”. However, there has recently been a shift in actions recommended, from special schemes related to the recruitment of women and individual-oriented measures to the integration of gender equality into the institutions through various types of structural instruments.

    Equal opportunities
    In 2013, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts. Read the Yale study: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109)

    Thus, we have to accept that neither of us is truly impartial, we are all uninfluenced by the society we are raised in (unconscious bias). The only solution is to raise awareness of the problem, and to carefully monitor ourselves as a science community.

    Recruitment
    Recruitment should as a minimum reflect the recruitment basis of the underrepresented group. This means that if there is 30% female PhD candidates, the recruitment of female postdocs should be (at least) 30%. The reality is different and often referred to as the leaky pipeline:

    “In science and engineering, among students and academics, women form a minority. However, as for all science fields together, in the particular field of science and engineering, the attrition of women sharpens at each stage up above the PhD level and improvement over time is small and slow.” She figures 2009’, European Commission

    Artificial boosting
    Positive actions that promote women (or any underrepresented group) are often viewed as controversial and there is a danger that it will instead stigmatize the group rather than support it. There are many reasons for this, however often lack of information (perception that the group is being favored more than it actually is) and lack of understanding of the challenge, constitute a main barrier. Thus, if we manage to engage the wider community in the identification of the problem (gender imbalance), addressing it will be the responsibility of us all. Appropriate measures can only be taken based on knowledge, i.e. we need numbers on the current situation. This being said, I think we cannot speak today of the risk of artificial boosting of women, without realizing that in the past (and today) artificial boosting is for men, not women (we are merely trying to catch up).

    In summary, “Women should have an equal right to enjoy the advantages that a scientific career can offer and to be involved in decision making on research priorities. Indeed, their contribution is vital to the future development of science in Europe: in order to develop science and its applications to the highest standards, we need the best human resources at our disposal, both those of women and men.” ETAN Report Science policies in the European Union – Promoting excellence through mainstreaming gender equality (2000)

    Recommended reading:

    Why are there still so few women in science?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?_r=0

    Science for all
    http://www.nature.com/news/science-for-all-1.12535

    Why women leave academia and why universities should be worried
    http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/24/why-women-leave-academia

    Only wholesale reform will bring equality
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7439/full/495040a.html

    Wanted: women in research
    http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v13/n3/full/nn0310-267.html

    Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109

    Women in physics: A tale of limits
    http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/article/65/2/10.1063/PT.3.1439

    1. Lena raises a very important point in her comment when she says that “I think we cannot speak today of the risk of artificial boosting of women, without realizing that in the past (and today) artificial boosting is for men”. I am convinced that many colleagues (men and women) are not sufficiently aware of this. And more importantly, they do not realize that the effect of artificial boosting of women in any domain is NOT that the level of candidates decreases but that the level increases: since the pool of candidates becomes bigger, the competition becomes harder; if you impose a gender quota to enter university, the level of all students goes obviously up – a point which is in particular raised by Nancy Hopkins in her public talks about gender equality.

      And another important point made by Lena is that the responsability of the gender bias problem should not be placed on the women only. This reflex reaction arose typically during the EGU medal discussion where the general conclusion was that women should propose more female candidates.

  12. I unfortunately missed the business meeting at EGU this year, but got a full report from Lena afterwards. This is an important issue and I appreciate all the interest and references that document the gender gap.

    Besides documenting the level of existing inequality, are there any practical actions that we might take to begin addressing this issue at the EGU or section level? It sounds as though the issue of gender inequality was raised pretty vocally at this year’s meeting, so it would be nice to bring a list of possible actions to next year’s business meeting. Having some concrete proposals could (hopefully) push the discussion in a productive direction.

    We might look at some of the recommendations in the above papers and tailor them to EGU, focusing on simple fixes and avoiding the more controversial ideas. As a practical way to address the medal inequality, we might organize to make sure that at least two qualified women are nominated for each medal. This idea needs more work to make sure it is reasonable and fair, but it would be nice to hear other potential actions that could be taken from the EGU participant side.

    1. Yes, thanks Massimiliano for your comment. We have Elena Toth as new president of the hydrology division and there are many more female presidents now. Great!

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