Celebrating International Women and Girls in Science Day
At ICCS we fully support the UN's International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Unfortunately, women and girls continued to be excluded from participating fully in science.
According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.
In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution and declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
What is ICCS doing to promote Women and Girls in Science?
This year we are again helping to bring Soapbox Science to Oxford, ICCS research coordinator Carlyn Samuel is on the organising committee again this year. This year there is a new twist, and in addition to 12 WONDERFUL female scientists (one of whom is our very own Rebecca Short) we will be teaming each with a female artist who they will be working alongside.
Group Leader and Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity
My job allows me the freedom to explore new ideas and to see my findings put into practice. I am surrounded by talented, committed and inspiring people who challenge me with fresh perspectives.
I can cross academic boundaries, and understand how different subjects approach problems, and how different cultures view the world. And best of all I feel that our work is contributing to making the world a better place.
ICCS Research Coordinator
After 15 years in public relations I had a light bulb moment when I was travelling around the amazon, went back to University, did an MSc. and followed my heart to work in conservation. And I'm so pleased I did.
I’m surrounded by people who CAN and DO make a difference to our natural environment, we hear a lot of doom and gloom about what is happening to our planet, but I’m pleased to say I work with an amazing bunch of women (and men) who are making a positive difference through science, hard work and dedication.
I’m excited to be working on Soapbox Science again this year, bringing an inspirational event to Oxford which will inspire the next generation of young scientists, as well as Conservation Optimism – there is hope for us still!
If you're passionate about something it just doesn't seem like work!
I never thought of myself as a “woman in science”, but that is what I am, and very proud of it. I guess I was lucky; my being a woman never crossed my mind as an issue for any sort of achievement. Going into science was also quite natural: I am passionate about nature and so I pursued it the only way I knew, by studying biological sciences. With time I realized I enjoyed research, finding gaps and answering questions. It all builds up to who I am and who I want to be: working to preserve all life in this planet by producing evidence to help people make good decisions.
I love what I do, get to meet really cool people, all trying to improve our living one way or another. I get to travel a lot, exploring new places and experiences. I get to earn a living without compromising my values, which makes me feel good about myself. And I get to be part of this community working tirelessly to “save the world”.
Don’t think in labels: “girl”, “science”, “nerd”… they exist, but they become less and less important with time. Identify things that give you joy, people you admire, the person you want to be. Don’t believe that science is some sort of obstacle; it is actually a tool that can get you there. It is not about being smart, it is about being creative!
I don’t think I could have asked for a better role, one that allows me to help create meaningful and collaborative research necessary to curb the illegal wildlife trade, share that research and translate it into impact for practitioners.
It hasn’t been an easy journey to get here for the programme nor myself, but sometimes, if you work hard enough and persevere, life rewards you by letting you continue chasing your passions and work with awesome females along the way, which is even more inspiring! I’ve learnt that even when things look gloomy, sometimes you just need to be open to unexpected opportunities and let the rest fall into place.
I didn’t know back then that I would become ‘a scientist’, but when I was only about eleven I was deeply influenced by a series of images of infant chimpanzees in makeshift cages destined for the pet trade. I had no clue at the time what I could do to help, but the commitment to do so has never left me. It’s taken me on a convoluted journey, sometimes working at the frontline, getting directly involved in chimpanzee and gorilla confiscations, while at other times living for months in communities whose livelihoods depend on hunting.
I’ve come to realise along the way how important it is to have a deep understanding of these complex issues, and the need to not only consider the bigger picture but also to understand it from the perspective of the individual. What motivates me every day are the individuals, both the great apes and the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve learnt that there are no easy solutions to complex problems and that the only way to change the world is through knowledge and appreciation of this complexity. I hope, through gaining this understanding, I’ll be in a better position to make a contribution to conservation on the ground.
Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Growing up on the Australian coast, exploring rock pools and swimming in the ocean, inspired me from a very young age to pursue a career in science. I started my career as a marine ecologist, investigating the dynamics of rocky intertidal reef communities in Australia. Since then my research has evolved considerably, and I now work as a conservation scientist facilitating the improved use of scientific evidence in conservation management.
I am currently undertaking a three-year NERC Knowledge Exchange fellowship, working with businesses to help them measure, evaluate and report on biodiversity performance. I’m really passionate about working in the knowledge exchange space, and in the application of conservation science to achieve real impact. You can read a recent blog of mine about knowledge exchange and research impact here.
If I was to give one piece advice for any young girls thinking of taking up a career in science, it would be to go for it! If you’ve got the passion and determination for science, then don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.
Sofia Castelló y Tickell
As a child, I loved playing in the waves at the beach – when I didn't have my nose in a book. The first breath I took in the ocean almost a decade later, descending over colourful splotches of sponge and coral, surrounded by busy schools of fish, shifted my understanding of the world. I have spent the last seven years exploring underwater life and how people understand and choose to protect it.
My studies have taken on various forms, from the feeding patterns of urchins and sea stars in the Galapagos, to the relationship between clams and fishers in the Gulf of California, the conservation of European eels in the Thames, and how people are affected by enforcement of Marine Protected Areas.
I am always amazed by the chance to witness marine life in the field and learn from people who interact with it daily. I was helped along the way by many people at Brown University, the University of Oxford, the Zoological Society of London and beyond, who brought me on boats, gave me books and papers to read, encouraged me to write and make films about what I was learning, and helped guide my ideas to fruition.
To a young girl interested in the world around her, I would suggest a combination of learning and doing. In order to identify the paths you want to follow – or perhaps create – you need to have a sense of what you are looking for, and how you are most likely to be able to access it. The rest of my advice is fairly standard: show up, observe keenly, be creative, work hard, and take time to reflect and enjoy!
I think I can make a difference as a young woman in science who certainly didn’t approach my career in the conventional, linear sense. I hope to use my past experience of working with people and my broader education in environmental issues to my advantage in my current and future interdisciplinary work. I want to work with people from different backgrounds, and continue to promote the importance of interdisciplinary research for conservation that ICCS does so well.
Science is so much cooler and more interesting in the real world than it is in the classroom. Science is not the abstract class you think you will never use again (note to my teenage self, playing with the bunsen burners and wondering what on earth all this was for), but the gateway to a better understanding of the natural world around you. With science, you can understand how things work the way they do, and why. You can build a meaningful career on using this knowledge to solve problems that can really help people and biodiversity.
You can have a career that really means something, not just for you, but for the generations after you. A career in science doesn’t just have to mean staying in the lab either. It can also be an amazing opportunity to travel the world, see and learn about things you would never usually get to study, meet amazing people and experience extraordinary things. Even if you know that a career in science isn’t for you, don’t rule it out as a subject to follow, even if it just serves to open your eyes to the world around you a little wider in your adult life.
I feel very privileged in having known what I wanted to do since a very young age when my love for fish already exceeded even that of 90s boybands (although with a brief archaeological wobble age 11) but I feel even more privileged to have had the support and opportunity to pursue my chosen career. This was less likely to have been the case a generation earlier, and I’m glad to have been able to watch the number of women conducting world-leading research in Marine Biology go through the roof (as rather a ‘sexy’ science it has formerly been heavily dominated by super-duper extra manly men, but as this extremely insightful and well-researched website shows this has evened up…)
I can mix in great names such as Sylvia Earle, Rachel Carson and Eugenie Clark with Darwin and Cousteau as childhood inspirations and this is fantastic. Conservation Science today puts traditional biologists in an incredible position to be able to help in both preservation of biodiversity and also human development – this is the kind of science that gets me out of bed in the morning and why I study links between people, fisheries and health. Of course, it also puts us totally out of our comfort zones, keeping us constantly on our toes and learning new things/collaborating with other mind-boggling disciplines. But then you don’t go in to this game if you don’t like a challenge!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved animals and nature. Growing up in South Africa, my family and I would often visit the country’s various game reserves and it was these trips that first inspired me to go into science.
It is this inherent need to protect the environment but to do so in a sustainable way that does not hamper economic development that most interests me. I love working with communities, exploring ways that we can conserve nature whilst at the same time, promote community development. The amazing travel opportunities are also a big perk in the field!
I am probably most proud of the work that I did as an environmental scientist in the mining industry. We worked with a large mining company and together came up with a set of measures that will be implemented to minimize damage to the local biodiversity and contribute to community development. I have just mentioned a few areas of science but it’s a huge field, with so many different job areas and opportunities. If you have an interest in the natural world, definitely consider a job in science!