Thursday, August 11, 2022

‘Seeing is believing’: Meet the women fighting discrimination in the science profession

Xia Westerman was interested in studying geology, but was forced to pursue an arts degree due to a lack of flexibility during field trips.

“I’ve always been interested in studying that subject. I tried to find local universities so I could study on campus,” she said.

“I tried searching online. I found something where you had to go abroad to study… I didn’t want to do that at that time.”

Ms Westerman, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, could not find anything in Australia that was able to meet her needs.

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that only a small number of higher education students have disabilities.

In 2022, people with disabilities made up only 6.3 per cent of university enrollment in Australia, and only 1.2 per cent had a severe disability. Only a handful of them studied science.

Women with disabilities ‘underestimated’

Geologist and lecturer Melanie Finch believes that the lack of inclusion in geology is an attitude problem rather than a lack of opportunities for academics with disabilities.

Melanie Finch encourages women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).,supply,

“General Approach” [is] You will not be able to become a geologist because you are not able to traverse the rough terrain,” she said.

“It’s ridiculous. There are hardly any geologists traveling the rough terrain on a regular basis.”

“People with disabilities may be underestimated or written off in a way because people don’t understand the scope of what people with disabilities are capable of,” Finch said.

Finch has become a leader in breaking gender stereotypes about scientists and is a powerful role model for girls and women seeking careers in male-dominated industries.

Melanie Finch holds her camera with the rocks and the sea in the background
Dr. Finch says there is a lot of room for women with disabilities in geology. ,supply,

Dr Finch is moving forward on multiple fronts as a lecturer in geology at James Cook University and as chair of Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences in Australia (WOMEESA), connecting women working in academia, industry and government. network is.

‘Leaked pipeline’ sees women out of the workforce

A research paper co-authored by her found that nearly half of geoscience students were female, but as they enter the workforce, the numbers begin to drop.

It found that this “leaking pipeline” extends to academia, as well as the mining industry in Australia, and that the starting salaries of male university graduates were about six percent higher than that of women in geosciences.

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