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.
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?
Image Credits: Ian Winfield, Cory Goldsworthy, Matt von Konrat, CC BY-SA 2.0
Two weeks ago, I published Part One of our look into how ecology has changed over recent decades. My colleague Kate Layton-Matthews and I have put this question to a number of ecological researchers from all over the world. Here are some more responses on how our field has evolved, from the publishing of papers to land clearance to the job market.
“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.