Posted by: Anne Jefferson | August 18, 2009

GSA Abstract: Blogs as a resource and social support network for women geoscientists

The Watershed Hydrogeology Lab is going to be busy at this year’s Geological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon in October. We’ve submitted four abstracts for the meeting, I am co-convening a session, and I’ll be helping lead a pre-meeting field trip.

In addition to being a complete water nerd, I have an interest in gender issues in science. The abstract below lets me think outside of my usual box and work with some really great collaborators.

HANNULA, Kimberly A., Department of Geoscience, Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO 81301,, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223, CAMPBELL, Patricia B., Campbell-Kibler Associates, Inc, 80 Lakeside Dr, Groton, MA 01450, and FRANKS, Suzanne E., 2435 Edgecomb Ave, Glenside, PA 19038

As women geoscientists progress through their careers, they may find themselves working with fewer and fewer other women. For example, although women now receive 40-45% of undergraduate degrees in geosciences, the proportion of women in tenure-track academic positions is much lower (14.2%) (Martinez, 2008). These women may feel isolated or unsupported in their work environment. Increasingly, social networking on the internet is used as a way of building community without geographic constraints. For instance, there are at least 20 blogs written by women geoscientists, and an unknown number of women geoscientists reading blogs. Blogs and other social media may provide a source of community and role models for women geoscientists, and help in the recruitment and retention of women from undergraduate to faculty or industry careers.

Preliminary work has found that women have many different reasons for writing blogs. Some want to improve scientific literacy, discuss science-related policy, highlight interesting research, or show people what it’s like to work in their field. Some want to discuss social issues, including those related to being a woman in science. Some write for personal reasons: to get support, to get feedback on ideas, for catharsis, or because they just enjoy writing. Women geoscientists also read blogs for a number of reasons: to keep in contact with geoscientists while working with non-geoscientists or while taking time off from work, to look at perspectives from related fields, to find mentors and role models, to participate in discussions with interesting women, to be part of conversations about gender or race, or to get advice.

We will present the results of an online survey of blog readers and writers, designed to find the extent to which women use blogs for these goals, and whether reading and writing blogs affects women’s career goals in the geosciences.

Reference: Martinez, C., 2008, Female participation in the academic geoscience community: American Geological Institute Workforce Currents, n. 9.


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