Women in SciComm Group

Last week, Humphrey Jones of the Frog Blog set up a survey to discover the most influential figures in Irish science and on Thursday the results were in. As I read through the long list of well-deserving people I noticed the vast majority of them were men (only 5 out of 34 individuals/groups were women). At first, I shrugged this off with the usual… sure isn’t science male-dominated and that’s why people are working to change this landscape e.g. WITS Inspiring Women Interviews DVD released that day. As the day progressed, I couldn’t stop thinking about this poor showing. It got me wondering about women that should have been included (there are many) and how to increase the number of “influential” women.

Five brilliant and inspiring women were included in the list… but surely 15% is low??

  • Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin 
  • Aoife McLysaght
  • Claire O’Connell
  • Ellen Byrne
  • Maire Geoghegan Quinn

I realise that this was a quick survey and other groups of people were also in a minority. Last night on twitter @ssanvito pointed out the low number of scientists on the list. That’s a problem I’ll leave in the scientists capable hands, but there is definitely something we can do to address the science communication piece of the picture.

It’s time to start an Irish Women in SciComm group! I know there are a lot of “Women in…” groups out there and I don’t want to create something that is redundant but I feel if we put our minds together we could achieve a lot. Here’s a few ideas I’d like to throw out there but it’s probably best if whoever is interested (if anyone is?!?) meets and decides what to focus on.

  • Increase the number of women in SciComm by:
    • Having get-togethers to enhance networks and grow as a community
    • Workshops/talks to enable more success
    • Promoting SciComm to young women
    • Do you have any other ideas???

So if you’re interested in joining, please email me (maria@sciencecalling.com) or DM me on twitter (@mhdelaney). I’ll set up a mailing list and we can decide when to have our inaugural gathering!

 Update (1pm): Yay! There’s already some interest… see new twitter list: Irish Women in SciComm

6 thoughts on “Women in SciComm Group

  1. I’d normally be in favour of this kind of group and think what WITS does is particularly useful and necessary when you look at gender imbalances across senior positions in academia and in industry. (Also, #womenonair is having a real impact on some stations.) However, I did a masters in scicomm and a good majority of the class were women. It was the same the year before and the year after. Is making a professional group for the majority useful?

    Some of the first people who come to mind when somebody mentions scicomm or general science advocacy are the women on the list above. (Plus Mary Mulvihill & Ella McSweeney)

    If anything, it seems the barriers-to-entry for women in science communication fields are much lower than for women competing for senior academic/industry/political positions. Hopefully seeing more female faces and hearing women on the airwaves will help to change the career prospects for mid-level scientists.

    Sorry to be a nuisance.

    1. Thanks for your comment and interesting additions (not a nuisance!!). The idea of this post was to put the concept out there so any feedback is well received, positive or negative.

      Perhaps my definition of SciComm is slightly different in that I was including people who work in science but may not work full time in SciComm. For instance researchers or other professionals. I feel SciComm becomes crucial when attempting to increase women’s influence and have more active women role-models in science. One role of the group could be to enhance WITS/#womenonair work in this area as there would be an emphasis on SciComm.

      In regards to women being a majority in the masters course, the main question is whether this majority translates in practice. In most general science degree courses, the majority are women but when it comes to working in science, this majority quickly disappears. I’m not sure of the exact ratios but it’s certainly something to look into further in relation to SciComm.

  2. Totally agree with your point on science degree courses. The problem (as is the case in lots of professions) is that there are often more young women than men at the entry level but this doesn’t translate at middle- and upper-levels. Similarly there are plenty of women candidates for local councils but the current cabinet is far from encouraging. Quotas might even be justifiable but that’s another day’s debate!

    So I think one-on-one mentoring of promising mid-level female scientists by senior scientists (male and female) is particularly useful. Comissioner MGQ had a good stat on this for #IWS: “While 46% of PhD graduates in Europe are women, only 30% of researchers are female and only 19% of top level academic posts are filled by women.”

    I suppose I took issue with the idea of Women in SciComm because I’m not sure a gender-exclusive subgroup of the existing Science Communicators Ireland is justifiable in the way that Women in Science & Technology, Women in Politics, Women on Boards are. It struck me as being like having a South Dublin Science Communicators Network – not really a group in urgent need of extra support, and perhaps not at the expense of excluding others. (Forgive the slightly absurd analogy!)

    I see what you mean about networking and celebrating women who work in science or in the space where science and scicomm overlap. I just wonder whether WITS already does this already.

    Full disclosure: I am a male who communicates science/health; my partner, daughter and one of my parents are female. Heck, some of my best friends…

  3. Hi, I think I tend to agree with finnegag above. Happy to support any sci-comms group, but not sure if dividing the already-close-knit sci-comms community up even further is necessarily a good thing. Plus, I think there are a lot of women in sci-comms already. In fact, comms in general is one area where women do tend to dominate (just look at marketing and PR, for example.)

    That said, there’s definitely scope to do more around supporting women in science (SWIS! – could we add a word that begins with H for a really cool acronym?!), so perhaps that’s something that the existing sci-comms community could contribute more to? The likes of WITS and WISER do good work, but I guess their resources are limited. The WITS online presence is not great, for example – a rarely updated website and a LinkedIn group that seems to be stagnant.

    That’s just my (very quick) thoughts. But like I said, happy to support any new sci-comms venture. Main thing to think about: How could we as a group help the women who are working in science?

  4. I absolutely love that acronym… especially as a basketballer!! We’ll have to think of a word for the H😉

    In regards to your comment about the need to support women in science as a group, I totally agree and feel that whether we achieve that through a ‘Women in SciComm’ or an ‘Irish SciComm’ group, it would be a great outcome of this post/idea.

  5. HI Maria, interesting topic, I’m all for the power of female networks (the ‘new’ old boy’s club !)
    I have to agree with your posters here, I think that science communication and in particular outreach has probably more women than men (speaking as part of an all female team) and the real area for work is to encourage young women in their studies/careers in STEM research – I’m involved in WITS and you might be interested in getting involved there too? I’ll be in touch. I note Sylvia’s very valid comments about the online presence, hopefully to be amended in the very near future.

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