Hydrological Sciences
Bettina Schaefli

Bettina Schaefli

Bettina Schaefli is a professor for hydrology at University of Bern (Switzerland). Her work has a strong focus on predicting current and future water resources and related natural hazards across spatial and temporal scales, with currently a strong focus on snow-influenced environments. She was the head of the Catchment Hydrology Subdivision of EGU from 2016-2019 and is an editor of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

On 14 June 2019, there was the Swiss nationwide women strike day, with the main topic of equal pay for equal work (see e.g. here). A good opportunity to share some thoughts about gender balance in the HS division. If you have a look on the HS division composition today, you will see that we have a female president and a female deputy president, in addition 5 female officers out of 11 officers (in charge of the subdivisions) and a female early career scientist representative. Overall, 12 out of the 25 officers are female. This is indeed impressive and a nice achievement. It is without doubt the result of the passionate gender balance debate that took place during the 2014 HS business meeting (see my HEPEX blog post on this).

After that debate, it was clear that something had to change. And the change did happen! Why? Certainly because many colleagues became more proactive when looking for excellent female candidates for division positions. And, of course, because many female colleagues became less reluctant to accept these positions. I was one of them. And while I am extremely happy to see where we are now, I continuously ask myself how to make this change sustainable. Besides nominating female candidates at all levels, the most important task for all of us is certainly to keep the discussion alive, to make that little extra effort while looking for invited speakers or while nominating colleagues for awards and, more importantly, to make change happen at all levels, for example for the next summer school or for the weekly seminar.

The leaky pipeline as reported here.

And where is the link to the Swiss women strike? Back in 2014, I triggered the business meeting debate around gender balance because I had just heard about the wage imbalance in Switzerland. This imbalance continues to persist. It continues to not be explicable (e.g. here a link to a Swiss research project on this topic). And I have experienced it myself during a former position in Switzerland where my male colleague in the same lab and at the same position and with the same age and the same achievements had a considerably higher wage. Why did I not do something against it? Because I did not have the energy to fight. Let’s hope that those times are almost gone.

A personal view on EGU 2019 – an edition like no other

This year Vienna was (for me) awfully cold. Sitting in the sun in the midst of happy conference attendees was definitively not an option at EGU this year. Due to the new EGU schedule with parallel sessions and longer oral sessions, making it until the lunch break was also a big challenge, at least for someone like me, who has more of a northern lifestyle. Luckily, this year posters were scheduled all day round, so we had a good reason to stay inside and stroll around the poster hall or visit the PICO areas. By the way, the conference organizers had apparently anticipated the cold spell … and decided to have “Antarctica” as a theme for the conveners’ party on Friday evening.

But these are all details, of course. Let’s rather highlight more important changes we had in this EGU 2019 edition: there is finally a room for breastfeeding and EGU now has a person of trust to report misconduct during the conference. One and a half years after #metoo, this is an important step.

And if you also attended EGU2019, you may have noticed the preferred pronouns badges, introduced this year to make everyone more comfortable in addressing colleagues you meet for the first time. To some of us this was maybe rather unusual. In my home university in Switzerland, there is a large student campaign going on (“not binary – extraordinary”), and, although I would never have guessed that, in some European countries, gender specific toilets have apparently already gone. It is nice to see that EGU is supporting these initiatives.

And how is EGU doing on the outreach side? Media attention is certainly growing every year. Not surprisingly, many stories about glacier retreat have made it into the news. Have you read in your local newspaper about the fallout radionuclides from thawing glaciers? Interestingly, this news came from a poster presentation (by C. Clason), which underlines the fact that posters at EGU can be just as impactful as oral presentations.

I should probably have a last thought on the science at EGU2019 – after all, that’s why we come together. As every year, I got great ideas and aha-moments when I least expected it: while sitting with my computer in a conference room, not really listing carefully to what was going on, but embedded in all the science talks and networking exchanges. For me, these are one of those unique moments, when your brain all of sudden captures something that enlightens you about a tiny little aspect of your work and that makes you feel happy about your entire EGU week.