17 November 2014

Comets, Probes, and Gender Inequality In Science

Posted by Joan Buhrman

By Carol Finn, President, American Geophysical Union, Margaret Leinen, President-elect, American Geophysical Union, and Eric Davidson, Incoming President-elect, American Geophysical Union

During the Rosetta probe’s successful deployment of Philae on Wednesday, a male European Space Agency scientist speaking for the project was captured by the TV cameras wearing a shirt that featured images of partially naked women. While he has since apologized for his decision, ‘shirtgate’ sparked a global discussion of gender inequality in the scientific community.

Despite how far participation by women in our science has come, scientific workplaces can still be very uncomfortable and difficult places for women and others who are not in the majority. Clearly, as a profession, the Earth and space sciences have a significant diversity deficit, but that’s not the only problem. There are also issues of inclusion, recognition, visibility, stereotypes, double-standards, access to advancement, networking structures, and even safety, both physical and psychological.

As the world’s largest Earth and space science organization, AGU has adopted a strong position on the value of inclusiveness and the need to bring greater diversity to the talent pool in the fields we represent. But that’s only the first step.

We recognize the need to have deep and honest discussions about gender and diversity in the Earth and space sciences (and beyond), and we want to hear from you, our members, about how we can best engage with you on these topics. Tell us if you think our current programming is effective. Tell us what you think we should be doing that we’re not. Tell us what you are doing and how we can help.

In the end, AGU’s vision of a collaborative community of scientists advancing and communicating science and its power to ensure a sustainable future isn’t achievable if critical parts of that community continue to be marginalized. We all – as individuals and organizations– have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others, to foster inclusivity, and to make our worldwide community into an exciting, inviting, comfortable and supportive place where everyone can thrive.

*For those of you attending this year’s Fall Meeting, we encourage you to consider attending these important events: