March 8, 2023
Women in Ocean Science [Women’s History Month]
Posted by Laura Guertin
For the month of March, in honor of Women’s History Month, I am dedicating blog posts to the outstanding organizations, resources, and inspiring stories about women in STEM. You can view my posts from this year and past years by searching on the tag “Women’s History Month”.
This post features a shout-out to women in the field of ocean science.
*Disclaimer – this post originally was supposed to be focused on a collection of profiles of women in ocean sciences available online. But in working to celebrate our successes, and keeping in mind this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2023 (the day this post is going online), of #EmbraceEquity, I couldn’t just celebrate the accomplishments – I had to include the challenges these amazing women have faced along the way and still face today. But first – let’s explore some sites that give shout-outs to women in ocean science!
The following are some websites available to explore career profiles:
- See the incredible collection of profiles of women in oceanography in the supplement to a 2014 Oceanography article, Women in Oceanography: A Decade Later
- Women in NOC – National Oceanography Centre
- Career Profiles – MPOWIR, Mentoring Physical Oceanography Women to Increase Retention
- Women in Ocean Careers – NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries
- Rock-Head Sciences – A Day in the GeoLife Series
- Women Exploring the Oceans (website that appears to be last updated in 2005, has detailed information about 15 female oceanographers)
- There are websites that document the contributions of women in ocean sciences back in history, including:
- Making Waves: Notable Women in Ocean Science (NOAA National Ocean Service)
- Women pioneers in deep ocean science (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
- The first women of scientific ocean drilling (GeoEd Trek)
If you are a female marine scientist, consider adding your profile to this collection, Meet a Marine Scientist, from Women in Ocean Science (WOS)!
The smiles are real, but the challenges still exist
As a woman trained in marine geology & geophysics, I can say with 100% certainty that every photo you see of me smiling on the ocean participating in field excursions is authentic. I love my work in ocean science and engagement, from when I started my education in this discipline to the new discoveries and outreach I participate in today. And just like the photos you see with the profiles linked on the pages above, all of those women are excited to be engaged in a field they are passionate about.
But there are still moments that are difficult, even painful, since the beginning of oceanographic research when women weren’t allowed on ships, to the harassment and discrimination felt by women today (unfortunately, not just in the ocean sciences). I applaud organizations such as Society for Women in Marine Science (SWMS), Women’s Aquatic Network (WAN), Black in Marine Science (BIMS), Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering (WiCGE), and other organizations working to improve the safety, status, and mentoring for those entering ocean careers. I share here a very brief list of articles to remind us of what women in ocean sciences have faced and what still needs to be addressed for the field to be inclusive not just for women but for all.
- Wadman, M. (2023). Women scientists at famed oceanography institute have half the lab space of men. Science,Vol 379, Issue 6630. doi: 10.1126/science.adg8170
- Legg, S., C. Wang, E. Kappel, and L. Thompson. (2023). Gender equity in oceanography. Annual Review of Marine Science 15: 15-39. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-marine-032322100357.
- Duncombe, J. (2019). Women in oceanography still navigate rough seas, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO125909. Published on 06 June 2019.
- Orcutt, B.N., and I. Cetinić. (2014). Women in oceanography: Continuing challenges. Oceanography 27(4) supplement:5–13, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.106.
- Bonatti, E., and K. Crane. (2012). Oceanography and women: Early challenges. Oceanography 25(4):32–39, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.103.
Biographies on Wikipedia(?)
As I wrap up this post, I’m reflecting upon which website students will go to first for a search on women in oceanography – most likely, that website will be Wikipedia. There are some biographies of Women Oceanographers and I’m sure some additional ones that have not been labeled with this tag. And there doesn’t seem to be a WikiProject Women in Red / Redlist for oceanographers or marine scientists (although there is a list for Women of the Sea focusing mostly on women in the military). To further elevate and celebrate women working in various ocean-related careers, it seems we can further our reach beyond our university/organization websites and add the biographies of these incredible women of the past and present working in ocean science to Wikipedia. (*see prior blog posts on why edit-a-thons are needed and why every edit counts)
Published by NOAA in 2023 – Celebrate Women’s History Month by meeting some of our colleagues across the country and getting a closer look at their many contributions – https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/womens-history-month
Also from NOAA Fisheries – Northeast Women’s History Month Series – https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/new-england-mid-atlantic/about-us/northeast-womens-history-month-series