Group for Irish women geoscientists aims to tackle leaky gender pipeline

23 Feb 2018408 Views

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Irish geoscientists have teamed up to bridge the field’s gender gap with the launch of a new, dedicated organisation known as IAWG.

With the numbers of women – or lack thereof – in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) well documented at this stage, groups of scientists are starting to band together to give them a greater voice.

Among them is the newly formed Irish Association for Women in Geosciences (IAWG), which is not only the first group of its kind in the country, but the first European chapter of the Association for Women Geoscientists.

Open to both men and women, the IAWG is hoping to raise awareness that now more than ever, it’s important to encourage women into geoscience and continue to support them throughout their careers.

The organisation said that a ‘leaky pipeline’, whereby women fall through the cracks, threatens the future of geoscience by limiting the skills and talent available to populate an essential workforce, particularly in senior roles.

Among the many challenges experienced by women in geoscience are stereotyping, unconscious bias and undesirable work-life balance – something seen across many areas of STEM careers.

Within Irish academia, it is estimated that less than 15pc of senior positions – from assistant lecturer upwards – are made up of women in higher education geology/earth science departments.

This figure decreases again to less than 5pc when discussing the number of women in the field who are assistant professors or above.

Research to be done

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, IAWG president Dr Aoife Blowick said that she and a small group of men and women have spent the past year forming the organisation.

“The stereotypes of the past century shouldn’t define the next, and that’s one of the main goals of the IAWG,” she said.

“Today, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who want to see a greater gender balance in the geosciences. We have a great committee and an ever-increasing number of members who are standing together to drive change.”

One of the objectives of the organisation is to gather data on the current gender balance of Irish geoscience as, right now, any similar research has only been conducted in the UK and US.

“We are currently asking members to fill out questionnaires to obtain some insight into their thoughts and opinions about gender balance in Irish geoscience,” she said.

“In the coming year, we would like to see a nationwide survey across academic, industrial and governmental bodies take place so that we can gain a greater understanding of Ireland’s place globally in gender balance in geoscience.”

The organisation is holding its official launch at 4.45pm on Saturday 24 February in University College Cork with a series of lectures and short videos from geoscientists across the world.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com