Second Meeting, Paramaribo 2008

The second annual symposium for women in tropical biology took place at the ATBC 2008 meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname. Sixty-three people were in attendance (5 male and 58 female). While increasing awareness is being made regarding the barriers women face in science, there is still a differential in power between men and women due to conflicts of family responsibilities, networking capacities, and institutional support systems.

There are also various impediments for women in tropical biology that are unique to our field of study. Safety assurance is a more salient issue for women traveling alone in remote locations, which can be amplified when combined with the unique cultural issues that many women have to face in different regions of the tropics.

Furthermore, the ability to organize and lead a field expedition is tied to gender roles and gender schemas that are almost invariably considered male across cultures. Discussion groups were formed to address the following two questions:

  1. What concrete activities can ATBC undertake to foster women in tropical biology?
  2. What can ATBC do next year at the 2009 annual meeting in Marburg, Germany?

The small groups devised an extensive list of potential solutions, which have been distilled down into an achievable set of priorities for the next year:

  1. Suggested topics for ATBC 2009, and workshops focused on:
    • presentation of data on women in science from various regions of the world (ask women to gather data from their countries or regions). Also presentation of statistics on women – countries they come from, how they are represented, etc.,
    • mentoring and networking; connecting women at different stages in their careers for question/answer sessions and mentoring,
    • balancing life as a woman scientist/mother/wife/daughter/etc.,
    • advice on professional advancement – perspectives from women in other countries
  2. Fundraising for childcare, possibly offer reduced costs to get volunteers/students to offer childcare; reduced rates for spouses to come along; funding to get more women to attend at various stages of their careers.
  3. Family activities at the conferences – for young children; day trips for kids (10 & over, for example) – with or without the spouse.
  4. Better representation of women in ATBC – more women in the plenary talks – local women; on editorial board, etc.; specifically ask women to organize more symposia.
  5. Mentoring program for women.
  6. Webpages in the ATBC website devoted to women in tropical biology: blog, profiles, grants, networking pages, etc.
  7. Special section in Biotropica for women in science.
  8. Lobbying for better funding for women to be able to bring their children to their fieldsites.