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On The Front Burner, The Late 2017 Edition

in culture-society-history, geology, science & technology, travel, women in science

Despite that I rarely enter the kitchen anymore, I love using cooking analogies to describe time management in fast-paced, interdisciplinary teamwork. I’m pretty sure my team is sick of it and plotting to buy me a microwave for Christmas this year.

The second half of 2017 has been extra-brisk with:

Geophysical Society of Houston First VP-elect duties: Allow me to gush a bit about how much I love this local geophysical society. Over and above organizing and hosting technical talks and social events, we meet face-to-face each month, discuss and make reasonable plans with realistic direction, assign responsibilities to those fit to accomplish them, report successes and failures, and generally get things done. There is very little of the politics and faffing about associated with many other organizations, and we are all about offering the most to our membership in the greater Houston area. How? Every board member is a geoscience professional, and we have just two office personnel and several event volunteers. We are, however, an aging organization, so if you are a student or early- to mid-career applied geophysics professional in the Houston area and would like to give back to your local community, please get in touch in the Comments section below. We want your input and effort, and your future leadership!

The SEG Women’s Network Committee (WNC): After two years as Chair, I handed the reins of our Committee and Network back to the Energizer bunny known as Maria Angela Capello, Chair 2013-15. Despite our best efforts, the succession plan fell apart. We were unable to convert an early-career member of the Women’s Network to a contributing/committee member to a leader. It is so easy and lazy to blame millennials and spout suspect theories that they are asocial and cannot rally for their own good. Instead, I ask what the modern scientific society should become to attract students and young professionals, and convert them into longstanding members who take on leadership responsibilities. In order to answer that, a couple of other questions pop up: Coming up on the year 2020, is the scientific society still relevant? If so, what sort of community do young scientists want? My biggest reason for being a SEG and GSH member is to meet face-to-face and share “our” science and experiences as scientists. But, is that considered scientific community any longer? I’d pay big money to attend a SEG annual meeting dedicated just to this topic. Seriously, folks, we’re technical sessioning, postering, paneling and exhibiting ourselves into irrelevance. Or are we? Let’s talk about this.

While no longer Chair of WNC, I am Vice Chair (interim *please, someone take my place, please*), Full Spectrum column contributor, author of reports and exhibits, and editor of the upcoming SEG Women eNewsletter. And general SEG busybody. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Mentoring365: One of the big requests by students and young professionals at SEG Annual Meeting 2016 was mentoring. SEG WNC’s collaboration with the American Geophysical Union on several other topics led us to discover their development of an online mentoring portal. We quickly partnered with the American Geophysical Union to jointly support Mentoring365.org, which was unveiled at SEG Annual Meeting 2017 and is now fully operational. Here’s a nice description of what the program offers:

Mentoring365 is a program developed among Earth and space science organizations to facilitate sharing professional knowledge, expertise, skills, insights, and experiences through dialogue and collaborative learning. The program provides mentors and mentees with structured, relationship-building tools to develop and attain focused career goals. Mentors must be current members in one of the program sponsors, AGU, AWG, or SEG.

More earth science societies will soon join us, but if you are currently associated with AGU, SEG and/or AWG, please become an earth and space science mentor or mentee! Also, listen to AGU’s Leslie Marasco and me talk about Mentoring365 in the next Seismic Soundoff podcast!

Travel: The Virgin Islands and Beijing were great, but the highlight of my year was attending the Association for Women Geoscientists awards ceremony in Seattle. I was given their 2017 Special Recognition for my “efforts to build the relationship between AWG and SEG as we work together to tackle issues that face the recruitment, retention and recognition of women in the geosciences.” AWG is a great organization, and if you do great things on behalf of women geoscientists, you get to be honored alongside women like Kathryn D Sullivan (I’m not worthy!).

Following the AWG event, I attended the joint AGI-GSA Societies meeting as a SEG representative, in which we discussed AGI’s proposed anti-harassment statement. More context here and here. A question I posed is if a statement is a policy and what about enforcement? Policies without enforcement are problematic, so the next positive steps are education and consequences. Without these, there is no point to anti-harassment initiatives and hashtag movements – the disease will still remain in the tree. A meeting attendee offered that due process is a means of enforcement. Due process sounds good on the face of it, but the more I think about its implementation, the onus and burden of proof are placed on the individual harassed rather than on the harasser and makes for a great legal CYA maneuver (like the ever-popular Training Video) rather than positive action. Then again, it also keeps a workplace from reflexively keeping or throwing out a harasser, and is an opportunity to formalize and document consequences for the harasser. More discussion required.

Right, this has nothing to do with travel, but going somewhere to work on the future and politics of living is always so fulfilling. Speaking of the politics of living, I recently watched a Billboard songwriter roundtable that included Tori Amos. The interviewer asked a question on gender politics in the music industry and Tori recalled how she once told a producer to keep her music intact and market it as she had made it. “Sell me to [the music exec]. Why not? You guys have been selling us [women] for thousands of years.” Here’s the transcript of that whole great panel interview. All of life is political – where you work, how you live, who your friends are, what you eat, what you read, watch and listen to, where you travel – and it’s not like you detach from that truth because you tune out to pop tv shows, smartphone games or the beach. Instead, you’re probably even more locked in to your choices.

Here’s a picture of Valerie Jarrett, all-around impressive person and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, speaking at The Art of Leadership for Women conference in Calgary this October. 

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