The newly formed Irish Association for Women in Geosciences (IAWG) was officially launched at this year’s Irish Geological Research Meeting (IGRM) on February 24th in University College Cork.
The launch, sponsored by the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), and the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences, featured invited speaker Clare Morgan (Head of Technical Section, Petroleum Affairs Division, DCCAE), followed by screenings of a series of short videos submitted by geoscientists from across the country talking about why, more than ever, it’s important to encourage women into geoscience and continue to support them throughout their careers in order to retain them in the field. A reception held by IGRM 2018 and a raffle with prizes sponsored by QMEC Hydrogeological and Geotechnical Consultants, Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. and Adman Civil Projects Ltd. closed the event.
Speaking at the launch, the President of the IAWG, Dr Aoife Blowick, postdoctoral researcher in iCRAG and NUIG, said, "From sspeaking with people outside of geoscience, particularly younger women considering their future career paths, there is the misconception that geoscience has been, and continues to be a man’s world. It’s these types of personal experiences that have made me passionate about driving change. The stereotypes of the past century shouldn’t define the next and that’s one of the main goals of the IAWG. Today, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who want to see a greater gender balance in the geosciences. We have a great committee and an ever-increasing number of members who are standing together to drive change."
The IAWG is the first ever European chapter of the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) and aims to encourage, promote and support women across the geoscience community at all levels of their careers, from undergraduates to professionals. Membership to the IAWG is free and open to anyone who supports these goals. Simply sign up on the IAWG website.
The IAWG has grown at speeds that can only be described as meteoric, having started off with about 10 people to establish the chapter the association now has over 160 members in its ranks. In the coming months the aim is to get 200 membes and to expand membership and activities to Northern Ireland. The IAWG's first event is the Girls into Geoscience Ireland event, taking place in UCC on March 10th. The event aims to showcase to female second-level school students the world of careers open to geoscience graduates today.
More than ever, the “leaky pipeline” threatens the future of geoscience by limiting the skills and talent available to populate an essential workforce. Many challenges including stereotypes, unconscious bias and undesirable work-life balance are perceived to remain in many areas. Although the number of female geoscience graduates appears to be steadily increasing, few female role models exist at senior roles. In academia, in particular, the numbers are stark; Women make up <15% of all senior positions (i.e. assistant lecturer and above) in higher education geology/earth science departments in the Republic of Ireland with <5% of assistant professors or above being female.
The IAWG is calling time on this legacy. This new nationwide initiative aims to:
- (1) breakdown stereotypes by showcasing women across geoscience in various roles
- (2) encourage secondary school students into geoscience through face to face interactive workshops, interviews and shadowing events
- (3) improve overall career outreach including nationwide career days
- (4) foster professional development by setting up a free nationwide mentoring programme for geoscientists in Ireland.