By Suzie Henderson, Ecology major and Horticulture minor
This past weekend I participated in the Women and Girls in Georgia (WAGG) 2015 conference on sustainability as a member of Women in Science (WiSci) at UGA.
As a woman coming from the science field, the inclusive atmosphere at the WAGG conference was a refreshing avenue to address sustainability head on, delving often beyond the scope of science. I knew from the first few sessions that we would be hearing very little empirical facts that day, but rather dialoging with other women on abstract and sometimes more concrete, values.
From the presentations and panels to dynamic keynote speakers, a few values that came into the dialogue were: health of the environment and people, culture, community, family, and food security to more abstract values like inclusivity, responsibility, persistence, and justice. Let’s just say we had much to discuss! Women tend to share and relate through their values, that more often than not, might be overlooked by men, no matter what field they work in. Men obviously possess common values with women, but it seems more tension arises because of how we differ in prioritizing these values.
During the STEM for sustainability session, a group of WiSci members and myself entered into dialogue with other women (and men!) about the role of mentors for women in the science field. A woman attending the panel chimed in with the point that men and women tend to think in significantly different ways and women are often known for the capacity to think about many things at once (turns out our neural wiring really is quite different!). She asked how we, as women in the science field, related to this characteristic.
Perhaps many, but not all women would agree with this view on the woman’s mind. Nevertheless, possessing a uniquely complex thought process can totally be an advantage. Some of us may fall into a trap of constantly finding fault in our thoughts and not wanting to voice them or act on them. However, if we are outward and confrontational with our thoughts, we can better address environmental concerns both locally and globally. We may be more likely to consider broader implications of scientific research and desire to communicate that to the scientific community and beyond. As women in science are faced with opportunities to inform this recent and urgent environmental movement, we are also invited to join the ever-widening discussion on sustainability with fellow women and men of different disciplines.
Here are some questions and food for thought you may be pondering after reading this blog. Comments and further dialogue are certainly welcome!
How can women incorporate their education, values, and convictions into their work as scientists (or other profession) to meet the challenges we face with sustainability?
What are some challenges women face in the field of science that relate to the environmental issues?
Are women scientists afraid of being taken seriously when addressing topics that involve human values that surpass the field of empirical science (such as sustainability)?