Today is International Women’s Day.
February 11th likewise celebrated women – in particular, Women and Girls in the Sciences.
As a woman in the sciences – in metaphorical halls previously dominated by male counterparts and now buzzing with inspiring female / femme mentors and colleagues – today is a day to reflect and celebrate. It is also an opportunity to uplift, be grateful, and to fight harder for full and equal access to science for all womxn (and all humans).
I am immensely lucky to have been raised by parents that supported my charge towards the ecological and conservation sciences and my early curiosities about our world. I am privileged to have grown up in a time where I had high-profile female mentors (who looked like me) to look to with hope, and for inspiration. Drs. Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle, for example, forever changed the way I thought about myself, and my potential, as a woman. Now, I sit in the Applied Conservation Science Lab. In this room, I’m surrounded by strong, supportive female scholars, colleagues, graduate students, and mentors.
I continue to be inspired and uplifted by incredible female and femme colleagues, academic mentors, powerful friends, paradigm-shifting government leaders, and ground-breaking story tellers – and to be strengthened by supportive male allies in academia and beyond. These are privileges that not every woman in science is accorded. Today (and everyday) is for recognizing the hurdles that lay in the path of POC women, Indigenous women, LBGQT+ scientists, economically-marginalized individuals, and the (many) intersectionalities at play.
While we can (and should) reflect on the incredible progress that has been made, we must also consider the work still to come. This month’s Nature special reflected on modern gender inequities in the sciences, noting that “..in the United States and Europe, around half of those who gain doctoral degrees in science and engineering are female — but barely one-fifth of full professors are women.” Furthermore, women are not invited to scientific advisory boards, or represented on panel discussions in numbers comparable to men. Many of the highest positions in the sciences – from tenured professorships to editorial boards and between – remain dominated by men.
Science and society are strongest when people of diverse genders, cultures, races, expertise, and talents can equitably flourish. Creating space for and actively supporting this equity require a critical look at our pervasive societal and personal biases, our political and legal systems, our history, and towards decolonial, inclusive practices. Today, I’m humbled by the women in science who overcome, who shine, who mentor, and who inspire, and by the men raising their voices and leveraging their power towards an equitable future.
By Lauren Eckert, PhD Student