For the first time in our history both EGU’s President and Vice-President are women – in fact most of our volunteer senior leadership team is compromised of outstanding women in science, our current President Helen Glaves, our Vice-President Irina Artemieva who will become President at the next General Assembly, and our General Secretary Jane Hart. This year for International Women’s Day we asked Helen and Irina to talk about the lessons they have learned as leaders in science, as well as their experiences and hopes for EGU in the next few years.
Hi Helen and Irina, thanks for speaking with us about this important topic today! Firstly, what would you say are some of the challenges that you think women in positions of leadership in science organisations face?
HELEN: The challenges faced by women in any leadership role are quite similar irrespective of their chosen career path. There is the long-held view that women are not suited to high-level positions due to their ‘traditional’ roles as primary care givers coupled with the pre-conception that they are more likely to either suspend or leave their chosen career to fulfill these commitments. In the modern world, it is just as likely that either partner may take on these responsibilities and such perceptions are biased and outdated.
There is also a significant disparity in some fields with respect to rewards and remuneration. Research shows that women are still often paid less than men for the same role, and they are less likely to be nominated for some form of professional recognition. I am proud that EGU is highlighting these inequalities and seeking to address the lack of women being recognised for their professional contributions through improvements being made to the EGU Awards and Medals scheme, which will encourage more diverse nominations including those for women.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of taking up a position of leadership in science organisations?
IRINA: There are many ways to be a leader at every stage of your career, and the opportunities are independent of job responsibilities and titles. I think good leadership has always been scientific in the first place. It builds on profound knowledge and broad understanding of the subject, sincere appreciation of alternative views, professional respect of colleagues and opponents regardless of their titles and ages, with equal appreciation of opinions from very junior (student-level) to very senior (often decorated with various prestigious awards) colleagues, and with open enthusiastic discussions of scientific problems, often heating up to scientific debates where result-based academic results are the best arguments. I believe that such an approach is the most beneficial in scientific leadership at any level, and I adhere to it in my professional life.
For the first time in our history, EGU has a female President AND Vice President, as well as a female General Secretary. What does this mean to you personally?
HELEN: As EGU seeks to raise awareness of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) in the geosciences, having women in leadership roles demonstrates that achieving these prominent and influential positions within the research community is a real possibility, especially for the next generation of scientists. I am delighted and encouraged by the fact that the membership elected women to these key governance roles within EGU – it demonstrates that this area of research is becoming more diverse with greater opportunities for women to achieve the highest levels of leadership in their community.
Irina, this year you will step into the role as EGU President, can you tell us a little about what you are hoping to achieve during your tenure as EGU President?
IRINA: EGU is a major global geoscience organization. This prestigious status has been achieved through a remarkable bottom-up community effort. I am committed to keep EGU as a flagship geoscience organization, to build on the union’s successful activities and to extend them to meet challenges of the changing world. I see, as one of the primary goals, the growing need to preserve the Union’s memory and the 20 year old unique bottom-up, democratic traditions. I also wish to support the Awards and Medals programme, foster the growth of the activities of EGU’s General Assembly and open access publishing, and endorse the role of our Early Career Scientists, our place in non-academic communities and our standing internationally!
I feel honored to be part of EGU and I will promote EGU’s growth and its international leadership rooted in its deep traditions based on democratic principles. The unique bottom-up principle of EGU’s organisation, that further builds on international scientific success of its members, is the corner stone of EGU’s development and success.
Helen, can you tell us a little about the things that you are most proud of achieving during your time as EGU President?
HELEN: I could list a number of milestones that EGU has achieved during my tenure as President so it is difficult to highlight just a few. I stood for election as President with the aim of increasing awareness of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion issues within the geosciences and promoting better engagement with the Early Career Scientists, which is so fundamental for the future success of EGU. For that reason, I have been delighted to see the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group move to a Committee and become fully embedded in the EGU governance structure, which was further confirmed with the approval of a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award that will be launched later this year. In addition, the Union-level Early Career Scientists Representative will soon become a voting member of Council giving them a voice in the governance issues that affect both the membership and the organisation as a whole.
These are some of my proudest moments but by no means the only ones that have been achieved, not just by me, but everyone involved in EGU governance including some very enthusiastic, intelligent and motivated women!
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Happy International Women’s Day to you both and good luck with your future activities with EGU!
Learn more about our incoming President Irina Artemieva in her upcoming GeoTalk interview!