Women in the New Year

I’m just going to put it out there… could 2015 be a turning point for women in Ireland?

Nollaig na mBan is a time for women (na mBan) to celebrate Christmas (Nollaig) after traditionally taking care of their family for the past few weeks (emphasis on traditionally). Seeing all the good wishes pop up on Twitter made me wonder what lies ahead this year for both women in science and those who happen to live on our green shores.

Women for Election

There are many signs that this could be a good one for our gender. Turning to politics, parties will be announcing their candidates for the next general election in the coming months. There is ample opportunity for (and sufficient pressure on) parties to field many brilliant female candidates.

From their success in the local elections, this is no longer simply a case of doing the right thing but has also been shown to be a successful strategy. I look forward to the countless debates that will occur this year as perhaps finally a truly balanced debate will be had on everything from fiscal deficits to foetal abnormalities.

Academic imbalance

From a science perspective, a lot more needs to be done to address the instability of research posts and the gender gap present in many areas of STEM. Though the Government is doing quite well at promoting STEM to young women, problems still exist. Plant ecologist Dr Michelle Sheehy Skeffington from NUI Galway highlighted the problem of gender imbalance when she won her Equality Tribunal case earlier this year.

Following this, five more women from different areas of academia are now taking a case against the university for lack of promotion. Inspired by Dr Sheehy Skeffington, this could be the year that gender imbalance in academia is analysed, debated and finally addressed.

Sexism in Science

The world of science communication was rocked towards the end of 2013 by many brave women who highlighted both the sexism and sexual harassment present in our community. This is summed up excellently here with a timeline of events. This changed the way science communication conferences such as Science Online 2014 was run and may have subsequently led to the dissolution of this organisation which happened towards the end of last year.

Led by the strong voices of many writers and bloggers, the SciComm community spoke extensively about the issue last year and is definitely better and hopefully stronger now. The loss of Science Online could spark new innovative meetups and gatherings which will (fingers crossed) lead to an exciting year.

Celebrating Authors

There is a lot of celebrate and the Women’s Museum of Ireland and the Anti Room know how it’s done. Later this evening, they are holding an event in the Irish Writer’s Centre which unfortunately is sold out but for those lucky enough to have a ticket, they will enjoy a great line up of speakers.

As well as talks, they are encouraging participants to take part in a Kris Kindle with a difference: Bring along a much-loved book by a female writer, wrap it in newspaper and label or tag it with a description of no more than 3 lines. I LOVE this idea!

Due to other commitments, I won’t be able to attend but the book I would love to share (though would be hesitant to part with) is ‘Superbug’ by the wonderful Maryn McKenna. This book along with her extensive articles on antibiotic resistance, inspired me to investigate how Irish hospitals cope with these invisible threats earlier this year (published in the Irish Times and Sunday Times).

What books would you recommend? #ReadWomen

Women in Technology and Science (WITS)

Finally, instead of talking the talk, I’ve decided to walk the walk this year. Gender balance and equality have always been a passion of mine and surfaced many times on Science Calling. This year, I’m a member of the WITS Executive and hope to help implement their exciting new strategy with lots of enthusiasm. Keeps tabs on this activity via my Twitter feed and @WITSIreland.

~ Happy Nollaig na mBan from Science Calling