Women in geoscience

In geoscience classrooms globally there is an approximately even gender split, and this persists into research degrees (honours, masters, PhD). However, as soon as students hit the workforce the number of women begins to decrease, and the drop off is progressively worse at higher levels.

In academia this presents as the “leaky pipeline” where the gender split at levels A and B is relatively even (although there are exceptions) and then there is a sharp decline in women at level C and beyond. Level C positions are typically continuing positions (tenured) whereas level A and B are more often short term contracts.

This “leaky pipeline” is also evident in the minerals industry, which is the most male-dominated industry in Australia with only 17% women (and almost all of these women are in non-geology roles). Anecdotally, mining companies report that they have an equal number of women and men geologists at the graduate recruitment stage, but they lose most of the women after a couple of years.

Research in the social sciences shows that there are lots of reasons for the leaky pipeline including unconscious bias against women, lack of role models, workplace arrangements that don’t suit families, unequal access to parental leave (women typically get more leave than men), bad experiences during field work and inequities in society that see household work as women’s work. I explore these causes and their solutions in my presentation on gender equity in geosciences, which I would be happy to present for your organisation.

Smashing gender stereotypes

I am a 2021/2022 Superstar of STEM, a program that aims to smash society’s gender stereotypes about scientists. The superstars are role models for girls and women who are studying science because seeing is believing – when girls have women scientists as role models they are more likely to continue into science. If you’d like me to come talk to your organisation about women in science, geology generally or critical minerals and renewable technology, please send me an email. For more information about presentations I can do for your organisation, check out my media and outreach page.

WOMEESA seminar series

The WOMEESA Virtual Seminar Series aims to increase the visibility of women scientists and provide inspiring role models for other scientists and science educators. Seminars are on the first Tuesday of each month and feature a WOMEESA member talking about their research in Earth or Environmental Science. Seminars are hosted live on zoom, you can go here to register. Recordings of our seminars are on our WOMEESA YouTube channel.

Further reading:

Shaw and Wong, (2019) Science Prizes are still a boys’ club. Here’s how we can change that. The Conversation

Wong and Shaw (2019) Increasing Diversity in Prizes and Awards. EMCR Forum Executive. Australian Academy of Science.

Dutt, K., Pfaff, D., Bernstein, A. et al. Gender differences in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in geoscience. Nature Geosci 9, 805–808 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2819

Madera, J.M., Hebl, M.R., Dial, H. et al. Raising Doubt in Letters of Recommendation for Academia: Gender Differences and Their Impact. J Bus Psychol 34, 287–303 (2019) doi:10.1007/s10869-018-9541-1

Popp, A. L., Lutz, S. R., Khatami, S., van Emmerik, T., & Knoben, W. J. M. ( 2019). A Global Survey on the Perceptions and Impacts of Gender Inequality in the Earth and Space Sciences. Earth and Space Science, 6, 1460– 1468. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EA000706

Dutt, K. (2019), Promoting racial diversity in geoscience through transparency, Eos, 100,https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO136977.

Martin, JL., (2014) Ten simple rules to achieve conference speaker gender balance. PLOS Compuational Biology

Crossley, et al. Male teachers are most likely to rate highly in university student feedback. The Conversation.

Alba, B. To achieve gender equality, we must first tackle our unconscious biases. The Conversation

Lariviere et al. (2013) Bibliometrics: Global gender disparities in science. Nature comment

Vila-Concejo, A., Gallop, S.L., Hamylton, S.M. et al. (2018) Steps to improve gender diversity in coastal geoscience and engineering. Palgrave Commun 4, 103 doi:10.1057/s41599-018-0154-0

Powell, K. How some men are addressing gender inequity in the lab, Nature career feature

Rosen, J. (2017), Data Illuminate a Mountain of Molehills Facing Women Scientists., EOS, 98

WGEA report on gender equitable recruitment and promotion

WGEA report on gender balanced parental leave

WGEA report on gender bias in unpaid care work

Women in STEM decadal plan

Moore et al. ‘Walking into a headwind’ – what it feels like for women building science careers. The Conversation.

The Merit Trap – Male Champions of Change report

The Psychology of Mansplaining – an article in Psychology Today on what “mansplaining” is and why it happens.

Dasgupta, N., & Asgari, S. (2004). Seeing is believing: Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(5), 642-658.

Latu, I. M., Mast, M. S., Lammers, J. and Bombari, D., 2013. Successful female leaders empower women’s behavior in leadership tasks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49(3), 444-448.

Bettinger, E., & Long, B. (2005). Do Faculty Serve as Role Models? The Impact of Instructor Gender on Female Students. The American Economic Review, 95(2), 152-157.