Friday, January 23, 2015

Women in Oceanography

As I prepared to submit my first proposal, I received an edit back asking to remove the statement in broader impacts that the proposal would support a beginning, mixed race, female faculty member.  'No one cares about gender anymore.'  The comment implies that females are equally represented now -- all the programs and efforts to retain women have worked. The job is done.

The December issue of Oceanography revisits the status of women in the field of oceanography ten years after their first special issue on Women in Oceanography.

The analyses presented there show that there is definitely progress. Numbers of females in all ranks of the faculty went up ~5%.  However, overall, women still comprise only 23% of the faculty in oceanography.  My department is right on the average with 7 females in a faculty of 30 - 4 of which are pre-tenure. This means that I spend my committee meetings often surrounded by elder, caucasian males.

The good news is that things are changing... but we're not there yet.  Some of it will just take time to reverse the inequalities at the highest level, but some of it will be concerted efforts to keep women in the academy and successful. The Oceanography special edition contains over 200 autobiographical sketches of women in oceanography - included as role models, points of inspiration and connection, others who have or are going through similar experiences.  I wrote one... its in there, along side many of my friends and women I've never met.  Maybe it will contribute to helping someone to keep on this path or, better yet, truly find their own path here in the academy or elsewhere.