What does it really mean to be a woman working in applied ecology?

Thursday 8th March is International Women’s Day and Sunday 11th February 2018 was International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To celebrate this, some of our editors have shared  anecdotes highlighting their own challenges and triumphs, providing a snapshot of what it really means to be a woman in applied ecology. Select a quote to read more and share your own experiences in the comments section.

Quote 5Quote 3Quote 1Quote 4


Quote 5

“I think many of the of the experiences I have had as a female ecologist are universal amongst women in science. Resource pages like this highlight the range of factors that have a negative impact on career progression and satisfaction. Yet I’ve always suspected that being a female ecologist has some unique challenges, especially when it comes to fieldwork. In my own experiences away from the office, as a young researcher, I found domestic duties often fell to me, particularly on one memorable trip to a remote area when I was the only woman in the group. The result was that my male colleagues had more time for science and more time for beer. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed strategies (and the confidence) to encourage those around me to pull their weight and now in my own group, I try to discourage distribution of tasks based on gender. I think this is getting easier as younger generations learn to distribute domestic tasks more equally in the home. To any men looking for ways to support women in ecology, don’t forget doing some cleaning so women have more time for publishable work is an excellent way to be an ally. Sometimes the simplest things can make a huge difference”. – Cate Macinnis-Ng (Senior Lecturer and Rutherford Discovery Fellow)


Quote 3 “Unfortunately the pressure of being an ecologist super-mum can difficult. I’ve heard a number of woman wax lyrical about what they managed to do in the field while 8.5 months pregnant (the stories get bigger each time!). Unfortunately, while this may work for some people and some pregnancies, it doesn’t work for everyone and their unique set of pregnancy circumstances. What it does do is put enormous pressure on pregnant applied ecologists to carry on as if nothing’s changed for them – to live up to expectations of women who have gone before & managed to do fieldwork throughout their pregnancy. Unfortunately for some women, it’s the first 3 months that’s worse & often women don’t want others to know they’re pregnant. This can cause anxiety”. – Anonymous


Quote 1 “I’ve recently discovered the menstrual cup! A revelation for a female field ecologist – no need to deal with your period during the fieldwork day, no issues with carting out waste, and less guilt about filling landfills with sanitary items and sustainability. Wished I discovered this earlier”. – Anonymous


Quote 4 “I’ve had more positive than negative experiences being a mum of two toddlers and full-time marine ecologist. Yes, its hard and its a juggle and sometimes I feel like I am doing neither job well. But I love it when their eyes light up when I bring them back a “treasure” from a scuba dive or show them a seaslug on the beach.

Another funny anecdote was when I went for my promotion interview while still on maternity leave with my first child. I was sitting in the waiting room, mentally going over my performance and achievements from the past year and all I could think of was the number of Wiggles songs I had learnt by heart”! – Melinda Coleman (Principal Research Scientist)


Have you had similar experiences in your field? Share your anecdotes with us in the comments below.

Look out for part 2 and even more anecdotes from our own women in applied ecology.