Women in environmental science: Power of equality

28th February 2020

Web p28 group photo

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Policy ,
  • Education



Cecilia Medupin reports back on Women in Environmental Science's 2019 workshop, which examined the roles of women in the discipline

Women in Environmental Sciences (WiES) was initiated in 2018 to bring together women of diverse ethnicities, working in diverse environmental disciplines, so they can address key environmental issues and the way they relate to women. Its 2019 workshop was held at the University of Manchester and attended by more than 130 academics, early career researchers, postgraduate students and people with a general interest in the environment.

Workshop presenters came from academia, the local community and policy and research organisations. We had representatives from private and corporate organisations, from professional and research institutes including IEMA, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, and Earthwatch Oxford, and from charity organisations such as Ignite Futures (Nottingham), Friends of the Earth and Manchester Community Choir. In terms of higher education we had representatives from institutions including Aberdeen, Bangor, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, Salford and Sheffield universities, as well as the Open University and the Manchester Environmental Research Institute.

Meeting of minds

The aims of the workshop were to promote inclusiveness, widen participation and foster interesting discussion in order to help people understand the various aspects of environmental science, policy and application – while considering the role of women. The sessions included presentations and breakout sessions in a free and relaxed atmosphere where new connections could be made. Participants motivated each other and gained insights into leadership, career prospects and the challenges women face in diverse environments.

During the meetings, the talks and knowledge-exchange sessions addressed themes such as the empowerment of women, leadership, energy, climate change and education, health, water, agroecology and urban green infrastructure, as well as the reflections of female leaders holding environmental roles in policy, academic research and industry. There were also links between the sessions' themes and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), explored through questions such as:

  • What are the drivers for social-ecological systems breakdown in different contexts, eg farming (SDGs 1 and 2), and what is our role, as researchers and practitioners, in facilitating inclusive processes to reinvigorate these relationships?
  • What does a mixed-energy economy mean for women, particularly those from disadvantaged communities or developing countries (SDGs 7 and 5)?
  • What are the challenges encountered by women in environmental professions (SDGs 5 and 8)?
  • How can we educate women, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, to protect their health when responding to environmental changes in a sustainable way (SDG3)?
  • How can we explore citizen science to make science more accessible and empower under-represented groups (SDG 4)?
  • What support do women need to transition into working in industries (SDGs 5, 9 and 10)?

We also explored case studies from the global south where the role and involvement of NGOs and self-help methods were shown to be effective, useful and empowering to local communities – especially for those leaving disaster-prone areas. Discussing these issues raised awareness of global challenges and helped participants to relate the experience to local challenges.

Questions were taken after each talk, answered by speakers and members of the audience. Furthermore, delegates were able to further discuss issues during the lunch and networking sessions.

Before the workshop ended, the key outcomes from the sessions and the links between each session and the UN SDGs were summarised thus: if environmental challenges are to be effectively addressed, gender equality and the empowerment of women need to be integrated through the SDGs at local and national levels. Therefore, female early career researchers and other professionals are encouraged to continually engage in WiES discussions and contribute their skills irrespective of challenges faced within their organisations and communities.

Key outcomes

All presentations and breakout sessions were very interesting and engaged participants. A summary of the sessions was collated and presented to the participants, with key take-home messages as follows:

  • Trust and respect are important for building relationships between researchers and non-practitioners
  • Women have a longer life expectancy than men, and the presence of quality green spaces will enhance their living
  • Citizen science is important for continuing environmental research, empowers society, enhances participation and inspires action
  • We can all do more!
  • Women have choices.
  • Be inclusive – involve your communities (of different ethnicities and genders). Inclusiveness and widened participation are important for sustainable leadership and followership in any organisation
  • Do the eco-proofing – for every activity you are involved in, ask: do I consider the environment in what I am doing?

Participants thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and stated that they would have liked to have had more time for interaction. When asked about the highlights, responses included:

“Breakout session was a great opportunity to interact and give voice to opinion on key issues. Don't often get this.“

“The selection of the speakers, with different work and interesting experience.“

“Embracing the complexity of the topic.“

“Extra breakout time was very helpful, it allowed people to get over the first few minutes of being shy and start to really contribute. And we had a great group.“

“Discussing these issues raised awareness of global challenges and helped participants to relate the experience to local challenges“

Future plans

In the future, we would like the support and encouragement of different institutions and organisations so that we can extend the event beyond four hours to a full day. This will enable us to address issues at length and allow delegates travelling from a distance to participate in the event. We would like to promote this group widely through the media and through outreach activities locally and globally, and to carry out some of the proposals outlined. The group is preparing a comprehensive report, which will be available later in 2020. This will encompass the outcomes from the 2018 and 2019 workshops and contributions from the presenters and facilitators, with the aim of effecting positive policy change in organisations and communities as it relates to women.

Women in environmental sciences now has a dedicated JISCmail account where information can be shared and ideas exchanged. Subscribe at bit.ly/30WB8hL, and encourage other people to sign up.

View presentations from the day at youtu.be/AwnE3DlfxR4

Dr Cecilia Medupin, MIEMA is the convener of Women in Environmental Sciences, and a lecturer in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Scotland to scrap its 2030 climate target

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

A hangover from EU legislation, requirements on the need for consideration of nutrient neutrality for developments on many protected sites in England were nearly removed from the planning system in 2023.

2nd April 2024

Read more

It’s well recognised that the public sector has the opportunity to work towards a national net-zero landscape that goes well beyond improving on its own performance; it can also influence through procurement and can direct through policy.

19th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close