I belong to a professional geophysical society whose executive committee has proposed the formation of a women’s network. Similar networks are American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ PROWESS committee and Society of Professional Engineers’ Women’s Network.
Why bother? Who’s going to fulfill your energy requirements, for starters? Consider it a staffing problem.
A large hurdle for geoscience is the growing inability to attract and retain excellent scientists, in general, but women, in particular. If the requirements and perception of women scientists are not acknowledge and acted upon soon, we stand to lose valuable professionals to other more attractive but perhaps not as fulfilling professions. The continuing double standards for women with family and the identifiers used to describe women scientists need addressing, especially in the male-dominated field of geophysics. Women can use mathematics and physics to address the world’s energy needs just as well as men can (some even more so) but refer to us as “sympathetic and nurturing team players” as if that’s a bad thing or “on the mommy track” and see how far that gets us. More critically, how does it grow the profession?
You don’t believe that this happens today? Forget the men (and women) who think women who wish to raise families while working have no place in the workplace and check this: Just a couple of days ago, I had to dispatch a guy who joked that the name of our proposed professional society should include a “snarky reference to Mother Earth, periods and emotionalism” and continued with “Gaian Cretaceous chocolate-bingers.” Why are menstruation, our feelings and pink sparkles the first things to come to professional male minds about professional women, when the known reality is that we, too, are … hold on … professionals who do not operate on these terms when at work?
This is the overt bullshit we’re up against, along with the stealthy and unspoken kind.
Many young female geoscientists have already benefited from the sense of community created by women in the sciences, both through professional and online networks. As they move beyond school and into the workforce, they hope to keep those ties strong. Furthermore, women currently in the geophysical workforce can continue to provide support and growth opportunities to one another.
So, this is my query. In the year 2010, armed with the learnings of various women’s societies to date, research into women’s issues and online tools such as Twitter, Facebook [insert obligatory "Yuk!"] and forums, what would the must-haves of your science-focused women’s professional network be?
Here are some suggestions that have come in so far:
- Include networking strategies explicitly to identify and support mentoring connections.
- Partner with an established network.
- Encourage the mingling of academics and industry professionals.
- (This one’s mine.) Encourage social media less for recruiting and more for actual conversation like in the geo
blogtwitosphere. It’s so much more organic and honest, i.e. what we really need, when it isn’t formal and enforced.
What else? I’m all ears. Oh, and don’t say the network needs women. It’s been done to death and many of the folks proposing the group are actually men. There are male feminists, remember?