Bigelow Laboratory women contribute to decadal report

01-26-2015

The Oceanography Society (TOS) today released "Women in Oceanography: The Next Decade," a supplement to the December issue of Oceanography magazine. The special report reviews the progress that has been made over the last 10 years in addressing barriers to career advancement for women oceanographers and where further attention to this issue might still be needed. Four local female oceanographers--three from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and one from the University of Maine--contributed to this second "Women in Oceanography" volume. The first was published in March 2005.

Progress is evident from the demographics of oceanography graduate students: in the last decade, the number of women students has equaled that for men. While encouraging, this volume also shows that men continue to outnumber women at other levels and in other aspects of the field, a difference that cannot be solely ascribed to the pipeline issue. The story is told through statistical measures, longer narratives, articles describing some innovative US programs that were conceived to promote women and retain them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and one-page autobiographical sketches written by women oceanographers.

Local oceanographers Dr. Beth N. Orcutt of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay and Dr. Ivona Cetinic of the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine's Darling Marine Center in Walpole joined forces to articulate the continuing [140]challenges facing women in the field.

"The ratio of women to men at higher ranks in oceanography still lags, even though women have comprised roughly half of oceanography graduate students during the past decade," explained Orcutt. "We not only looked at recent trends but tried to identify some of the reasons behind this advancement lag."

"While there have been positive improvements over the past 10 years, such as increasing numbers of female professors, there are still signs of barriers to women advancing in their careers," said Cetinic. "We hope that our analysis is useful to students and early career women oceanographers, who will have the tools to break the glass ceiling that still exists in oceanography."

More than 200 autobiographical sketches included in the special supplement provide a broad view of the field of oceanography. They describe what the women have found the most rewarding about their careers, what their greatest challenges have been and their responses, and how they balance work and personal lives. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences researchers, Drs. [141]Patricia Matrai and[142] LeAnn Whitney contributed stories to this section. Matrai describes her career path over the last decade, as she also had a piece in the first, 2005 "Women in Oceanography" volume, and how she has adapted to the rapid advances in oceanography in the Arctic, where her research is focused. She also addresses how she balanced a growing family, a seagoing spouse, and increased administrative duties with an expanding career.

Whitney, a postdoctoral researcher in cell and molecular biology, tells how she became interested in the ocean as a young student in Maine, and about her path toward seeking a career in marine biology, including the joy she finds in mentoring young students as they consider careers in science.

"Women in Oceanography: The Next Decade" is available[143] online. Join in the discussion on Twitter at #womenoceanographers and #WomenInSTEM.

The Oceanography Society was founded in 1988 to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and its application through research and education, to promote communication among oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus building across all the disciplines of the field. It is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization incorporated in the District of Columbia.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine's emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory's research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

The School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine helps students develop a scientific understanding of the marine environment that is Maine's heritage, integrate and communicate that knowledge through interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate studies, and apply it toward stewardship of sustainable marine resources. ##### News Sidebar

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