Breaking down gender barriers in coastal geoscience and engineering

A group of international female scientists, including University of Newcastle Coastal Scientist Dr Hannah Power, has identified key barriers to success for women working in the fields of coastal geoscience and engineering, proposing simple steps to attract more women to innovation industries.

Dr Hannah Power

As part of their role within the committee for the international network working for women in coastal geoscience and engineering (WICGE) – spanning Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Spain – the researchers found that, although women make up almost a third of the CGE community, they represent only about one in five of its prestige roles.

The findings, led by the University of Sydney and published today in Nature Publishing Group’s social sciences journal, Palgrave Communications, analysed the gender representation in the boards and committees of nine societies, 25 journals, and 10 conferences; additionally, they launched a global survey and obtained responses from 314 people.

Co-author Dr Hannah Power, Senior Lecturer and Coastal Scientist at the University of Newcastle, stressed that it was important to remove the barriers facing women for broader diversity and outcomes within the field.

“The lack of women in senior prestige roles in coastal geoscience and engineering means that we’re not truly benefiting from the talent of everyone. Addressing these issues will take changing the way we think about things but will ultimately result in better outcomes.

“While this paper focuses on a particular discipline within geoscience and engineering, the conclusions are applicable far more broadly throughout all of STEM,” Dr Power said.

Lead and corresponding author Associate Professor Ana Vila-Concejo, co-leader of the University of Sydney’s Geocoastal Research Group and deputy director of the One Tree Island Research Station on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, said the solutions and suggestions were relevant for women in science and more generally.

“Our findings are important not only for our field of research but also for other fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and beyond,” she said.

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