Newswise — Researchers agree that interdisciplinary research is key to addressing the climate crisis, but this research is often underrecognized and underfunded. For women leaders in interdisciplinary marine sciences, this issue can be exacerbated by the discrimination and underrepresentation that they face in the field. In research publishing in One Earth on June 7, scientists share results of a survey given to 34 women leaders in marine research across the globe, highlighting discrimination faced by women in science and putting forth paths to increasing gender equity.
The team, led by Rebecca Shellock (@Marinebecca), a marine social scientist at Australian National University, administered their survey to women leaders representing 27 nationalities. They found that 70% of respondents thought interdisciplinary marine science was more challenging for women leaders and that 60% had personally experienced gendered challenges.
The survey was also a chance for these leaders to share their experiences. “There’s still an expectation that in a meeting of senior scientists, any women present are the best people to take the minutes,” said one respondent.
Another leader spoke about how women have a lot to offer to interdisciplinary research: “I think women more easily see the value of interdisciplinary science, and they more clearly see that it is actually a particular skillset—working across the disciplines in an effective way is a particular skillset… I don’t think that is often recognized by, or it's less likely to be recognized by, males.”
Some respondents also see interdisciplinary science as an area of opportunity for women: “The mono-disciplines have been developed for centuries and are more competitive, and for women it's more difficult also for cultural reasons. Interdisciplinary science is something newer, and perhaps because it's a more open new niche, there are more opportunities for women in this niche.”
To combat these inequities, the authors suggest that institutional encouragement, networking opportunities, and well-designed mentorship programs could help close the gender gap. “It is counterproductive for sustainability if women are being subtly and systematically excluded from leadership opportunities, whether intentionally or otherwise,” write the authors. “Interdisciplinary marine research environments must become more gender inclusive, empowering, and appealing places for women scientists and potential leaders to work.”
The research was supported by CPAS and the ANU Futures scheme. Some of the authors who contributed to this work are supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) via the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Norwegian Research Council, the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.
One Earth, Shellock et al.: “Breaking down barriers: The identification of actions to promote gender equality in interdisciplinary marine research institutions” https://www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(22)00261-5
One Earth (@OneEarth_CP), published by Cell Press, is a monthly journal that features papers from the fields of natural, social, and applied sciences. One Earth is the home for high-quality research that seeks to understand and address today’s environmental grand challenges, publishing across the spectrum of environmental change and sustainability science. A sister journal to Cell, Chem, and Joule, One Earth aspires to break down barriers between disciplines and stimulate the cross-pollination of ideas with a platform that unites communities, fosters dialogue, and encourages transformative research. Visit http://www.cell.com/one-earth.