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.
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.
This is the last entry in a series that looks at ecofeminism and the critiques it has faced over the last 50 years. You can read the introductory piece here. The other chapters are linked below. (Image Credit: Patrick Kavanagh, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
We’ve looked at a couple of issues so far that ecofeminism has faced along the way, but in my opinion this is the big one. Whilst ecofeminism’s issues with dualism and definitions frustrated many of its proponents in its infancy, ties to essentialism caused many feminists to distance themselves from the discipline itself. So what is essentialism, and why did it almost bring the movement to a grinding halt?
Over the next month or so I’ll be summarising a sociology paper that I wrote back in 2017 on ecofeminism. You can read the introductory piece here. This is part two. Image Credit: Christoph Strässler, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped.
One of the earliest difficulties that ecofeminism faced was that nobody seemed to understand exactly what is was. In the first piece of this series, I listed it as “a vaguely defined version of… a combination of ecology and feminism.” You can probably see this issue already – a combination of ecological and feminist thought sounds nice, but if it doesn’t have any clear message or meaning then is there really a point?
Image Credit: Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0
Long story short, when I was in the final year of my Masters I wrote an essay on ecofeminism. My social science teacher Rapti Siriwardane-se Zoysa said that we should turn it into a piece for their working journal, and we did. But if you’ve ever opened a sociology paper before as a non social scientist, you’ll know that those things can be DENSE.
Having kids and maintaining a career in science can be hard. So what are some practical solutions that universities and other research institutes can implement? (Image Credit: Maj. Michael Garcia, DIMOC, Image Cropped)
During her recent visit to the University of Arkansas (you can read our first interview here), I took the time to sit down with Dr. Shelley Adamo and talk about the state of support for women in science with children. Shelley has spoken about this issue before, and you can see notes from her previous talk in the link at the end of the article.
In this interview, we discuss practical solutions to the family/career conundrum in science, how to trigger prompt action, and whether it’s possible to have a family and be a highly successful scientist.
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?
The lack of senior female researchers can be daunting to younger female scientists, but openness and honesty combined with a willingness to strive for higher positions can bring about a cultural shift in ecology, says Dr. Celine Frere. Image Credit: Pxhere, CC0 1.0, Image Cropped
During my recent trip to the Sunshine Coast in Australia, I sat down with Dr. Celine Frere and talked about her work with charismatic species, which you can read about here. However, Celine is also one of Australia’s Superstars of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), an initiative of Science & Technology Australia designed to raise the profile of female scientists in Australia. With this in mind, I had a chat with Celine about gender equality in ecology, and the advice she’d give to young female researchers.