This interview was first published in late 2018 on the predecessor to Ecology for the Masses under the title “Marlene Zuk: Gender in Science”. Image Credit: Marlene Zuk, University of Minnesota, CC BY 2.0
As part of a two-day gender equality workshop for the Department of Biology at NTNU, Kate Layton-Matthews and I had the chance to interview Professor Marlene Zuk. Marlene is a prominent evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist, and a well-known advocate of improved gender equality in academia.
Her emphasis on bringing about more fact-based discussions on gender and how to attract women to typically male-dominated professions is unfortunately still necessary. People are still maintaining the view that women are ‘naturally less inclined’ to what are considered as ‘masculine’ disciplines, but as Marlene explains, it is impossible to disentangle culture from genetics. Her work is fundamental in the face of such dangerous over-simplification, for instance in the light of the firing of a disgraced professor at Cern, the European nuclear research centre in Geneva, where a male professor commented that ‘Physics was built by men’, which was unsurprisingly met with immediate backlash. In the words of another gender equality-advocate and professor in Physics, Jessica Wade, we need to fight against the ‘toxic and incorrect messages’ that such people are propagating.
Last year, 1650 students from across the US exchanged letters back and forth throughout the school year with professional scientists from around the world as part of the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program. Through the friendships formed between students and their scientist penpals, Letters to a Pre-Scientist helps kids see scientists as real people and empowers them to see themselves as future scientists.
Image Credit: rumpleteaser, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped
2019 was a year in which many changes that our planet is experiencing came to the fore, capped off in December by the Australian bushfires, a phenomenon that scientists predicted would start to occur with increasing intensity at the beginning of last decade. With all the change that our planet is currently undergoing, it’s always worth noting that the discipline of ecology itself has changed as well.
Over 2019 we got to sit down and talk to some pretty exciting people. And whether they were at the forefront of genomics, the science-policy interface, or the wave of inclusivity currently sweeping ecology, they all had some great comments on how ecology has changed over the last few decades.
Professors Amy Austin, Eva Plaganyi, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, Prue Addison and Johanna Schmitt (not pictured) share their views on gender equity in ecology (Image Credit from left: Amy Austin, CSIRO, NMBU, Synchronicity Earth; All images cropped, CC BY-SA 2.0)
In Part Two of our ongoing look at gender equity in ecology, four prominent female ecologists share their thoughts on how gender equity in ecology has progressed, and where it needs to go from here.
For Part One of this series, click here.
We spoke to prominent female ecologists about the challenges facing women in ecology today (Image Credit: Shannon McCauley, Gretta Pecl, Marlene Zuk, CC BY 2.0, Images Cropped)
Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Woman are still under-represented in science, with UNESCO showing that at latest count, less than a third of all researchers in Western Europe and North America are women, with the highest percentage in any region of the world 47.2%, in Central Asia. Rather than go into depth about gender in ecology myself, I thought that I’d share some of the thoughts of prominent female ecologists that we’ve spoken to over the last year. We asked these scientists two simple questions. Has the gender gap closed during your time in the discipline, and what needs to happen to close it further?
Scientific papers nowadays are written more on computers than with ink and paper, but no matter how you write a paper it is important to distinguish who gets credit for what. (Image credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image Cropped)
A huge component of science is the execution of successful experiments and then writing about those experiments. Consequently, a lot of weight is put on who did what, and what kind of credit people deserve for what they do. This can result in some arguments about how much so and so did for the project, and why they deserve authorship credit. In this article, I want to briefly cover some authorship issues and what kind of impact authorship can have on a scientist’s career.
“I think that [traditional gender roles] are powerful and yet subtle in terms of affecting the choices that women make along their careers.” (Image Credit: Amy Austin, University of Buenos Aires, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
In 2018, women are still under-represented in Science. UNESCO showed that at latest count, less than a third of all researchers in Western Europe and North America are women, with the highest percentage in any region of the world 47.2%, in Central Asia. With this in mind, my colleague Kate Layton-Matthews and I were lucky enough to sit down with 2018 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award-winner Amy Austin at the 2017 Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium. We spoke about ecology’s recent recognition in the awards, the ongoing gender gap in science, and how we can all contribute to closing it.