Geography Colloquium Series “Women in Geoscience:  Power, Behaviour, and the Scientific Division of Labour at a Canadian Geoscience Conference”

“Women in Geoscience:  Power, Behaviour, and the Scientific Division of Labour at a Canadian Geoscience Conference”

Tuesday, January 16

12:30 pm

GEOG room 229


The study of the earth is a human endeavour, shaped by human habits, values, and institutions. Science is often presented as an emancipatory project for humanity, speaking truth to power, and democratising knowledge and authority. In recent decades, however, geoscience – as with other fields of science – has been reckoning with its historical values and habits in relation to embedded sexism, racism, and elitism in its institutions and practices. If geoscience is to play an emancipatory role in society, geoscience as a profession should be supportive and inclusive of geoscientists with multiple identities, backgrounds, and values. This study examines participation and behaviour within the Canadian Geophysical Union annual conference to consider how inclusive Canadian geoscience currently is, what types of practices might contribute to feelings of inclusion and exclusion within that setting, and what differences exist in the intellectual pursuits of women and men in geoscience. Eight UBC geographers attended 47 conferences sessions, making observations on presenter and audience demographics, presentations’ style and substance, and audience behaviours. Quantitative analysis of observational data, alongside notes on in-session interactions, highlighted that while women and people of colour were under-represented in oral presentations, they made distinctive intellectual contributions. Conference behaviours reflect wider issues of power and create ‘chilly climates’ that affect who feels welcome in different parts of the geoscientific enterprise. We argue that diversity initiatives must go beyond simply increasing representation in geoscience, to examine how broader changes in norms and cultures can make geoscience a more inclusive and democratic pursuit. Conferences are significant culturing institutions within science – through conferences we learn what types of knowledge is valuable, how we should behave toward others, and what constitutes a ‘good’ geoscientist.



Leonora King  (PhD candidate, Department of Geography, UBC)

Lucy MacKenzie  (PhD candidate, Department of Geography, UBC)

Marc Tadaki  (PhD candidate, Department of Geography, UBC)

Sara Cannon  (PhD student, Department of Geography, UBC)

Kiely McFarlane  (PhD candidate, IRES, UBC)

Dave Reid  (PhD candidate, Department of Geography, UBC)

Michele Koppes  (Associate Professor, Department of Geography, UBC)

For event poster:


Photo Credit: Mike Beauregard from flickr/ Creative Commons