International Women’s Day 2017: advice for aspiring ecologists

For the last of our series of blog posts for International Women’s Day our Associate Editors give their advice for female students or early career researchers looking to make a career in ecology.

nathalie-buttNathalie Butt – Unfortunately, it is still very much the case that it is not what you know, but who you know, so be strategic with who you work with/where you work. Also, there are plenty of careers in ecology outside academia – be aware of that, and don’t expect to make it in academia; there are way more people than jobs!

stephanie-januchowski-hartleyStephanie Januchowski-Hartley – Believe in yourself, and follow your passion. Find mentors along the way who support and build you up, and don’t hold onto those who don’t – you deserve the best, nothing less.

cate-macinnis-ngCate Macinnis-Ng – Surround yourself with a supportive team. Ecology is not a solo science. It is difficult to be successful working on your own so find peers and more senior colleagues you enjoy collaborating with. In my field, healthy collaborations are the best way to be productive. I’ve also found mentors and role models have been invaluable. I have been lucky to have several generous mentors who have helped me navigate career development and managing work and family commitments. More senior academics can be great for this but peer mentoring can also be supportive, encouraging and motivating.

ainhoa-magrachAinhoa Magrach – I think I would say to young female students that if they are curious to learn more they should never stop seeking answers. I would ask them to have confidence in that they can do whatever they want. They should put their fears aside and continue.

elizabeth-nicholsElizabeth Nichols – Ensure that you have female mentorship within your mentorship team, even if you hold the belief that we live in a post-sexist society.

A diversity of opinions and strategies is always productive, and you may find yourself on the receiving end of excellent advice and perspective.

romina-raderRomina Rader – My advice is to look at the career trajectory of your mentors and see what ingredients are required for a successful career in the area you are interested in.

As an early career researcher, the best advice given to me was to follow my research interests and focus on doing the work that I really love doing – in other words, don’t compromise your research ideals!

meredith-root-bernsteinMeredith Root-Bernstein – Careers in ecology are not good. It is a great profession with a horrible career path and an incentive structure that seems intent on destroying science from within. Don’t do it unless you can’t imagine being happy doing anything else. On the one hand, imagine science as a self-sacrificial career that may exact a profound price in terms of your personal life. If you accept this and feel some kind of moral imperative or fascination anyway, go for it.

On the other hand, recognise that unlike in the private sector, a science career is a huge opportunity to develop yourself constantly.

And to play. Science is one of the careers where you can play the most, if you can manage to buy time and dissimulate what you are doing when interacting with the vast majority of unplayful people. Sometimes I feel like I am frittering away my intellect pumping out papers to puff up my CV. But it helps me get jobs and grants and access to money in other people’s grants that they don’t know how to spend. With the opportunities that this gets me, I try to play, to have fun. Playing is not about relaxing or being immature, it’s a way to generate and explore new ideas. I only know a few people who play during their research, but without this, in my opinion, it would hardly be worth it.

margaret-stanleyMargaret Stanley – Finding a good mentor (or 2!) is crucial to success. Look around for role models (not necessarily in your discipline). Finding a sponsor, someone who can create opportunities for you, is also important. Take opportunities offered to you (while keeping your work-life balance in mind). Be confident and try to slip free of the ‘imposter syndrome’ – take care of your mental health – and enjoy what you do.

Contributors to this post are:
Nathalie Butt, University of Queensland, Australia
Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Paul Sabatier University, France @ConnectedWaters
Cate Macinnis-Ng, University of Auckland, New Zealand @LoraxCate
Ainhoa Magrach, Estacion Biologica de Doñana, Spain @AinhoaMagrach
Elizabeth Nichols, Swarthmore College, USA @LizSNichols
Romina Rader, University of New England, Australia @rominatwi
Meredith Root-Bernstein, INRA, France
Margaret Stanley, University of Auckland, New Zealand @mc_stanley1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s