EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Role Models for Mobile Women Scientists

Ira Didenkulova1,2 and Gianna Avellis3
Ira Didenkulova and Gianna Avellis
  • 1Tallinn University of Technology, Department of Marine Systems, Tallinn, Estonia (
  • 2Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University n.a. R.E.Alekseev, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
  • 3InnovaPuglia SpA, Technical Assistance and Consulting Dept., Valenzano, Bari, Italy

The need of Role Models is one of the basic needs in our lives, and should be ensured and followed especially when one is thinking of undertaking a challenge. At different stages of our life and career we face different challenges and each of them needs a separate Role Model. The main message which comes from these Role Models is “You are not alone. I have done it as well. It’s doable.” Therefore, when talking about Role Models for Women in Science, it is important to cover the whole spectrum of different challenges women face during different stage of their career. The need for Role Models has been understood by the society and reflected in the recent literature (see, Howes and Herzenberg, 2015; McCullough, 2016; Calvin, 2017) and in datasets, such as AcademiaNet, which is a European database listing outstanding women researchers in Germany. However, they are mostly focused on outstanding women academics, which are at the peak of their career, while young women need Role Models throughout the whole career and especially in its beginning. Role Models for early-career, middle-career and senior scientists may be different. Therefore, we think it is important to talk about Role Models at different stages of their career, and to show the whole wide range of challenges women face and to respond them by their stories.

In our project we focus on one such challenge, which is mobility of women scientists. Mobility support for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) career is an increasingly important issue in today’s world. Cutting edge research tends to be undertaken via international collaboration, often within networks built up by moving to a new country. In addition, many of today’s funding opportunities are geared towards international cooperation. This topic is a bit overlooked by the society, while it is clear that mobility is gender sensitive especially for families with small kids. We have undertaken a Women Networking and Mobility project which is funded under the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Alumni award, to address the issues above. The project focus is specifically on the networking of women in STEM paying special interest to their mobility, and should provide mentoring support to those women who do or plan to do their research abroad. In order to support women and especially early career scientists who do or plan their research abroad, we published three books and created a database of corresponding Role Models. Our Role Models are at different stages of their career from PhD studies to professorship and they represent “real life” Role Models, which satisfies the need especially of young women. The latter means that they do not need to be outstanding in terms of winning Nobel Prize or ERC Synergy or Advanced Grant, but rather be successful in their research and achieve healthy work-life balance. We hope their stories and experience will support and inspire the young female scientists in their academic career.

How to cite: Didenkulova, I. and Avellis, G.: Role Models for Mobile Women Scientists, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-15490,, 2020

Comments on the presentation

AC: Author Comment | CC: Community Comment | Report abuse

Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 04 May 2020
  • CC1: mobility and families, Marine Lasbleis, 04 May 2020

    Thanks for this action, it looks great and I'll have a look at the website later.

    I have a question about how to handle the mobility and families. Or how, as a community, we can improve on this?

    I am a post doc, with a family, that went abroad for a while, and the reaction to this has always been very strange (while none of the similar question has been asked to my husband, in the same situation at that time). We, as women with family (mother or not), are still considered first as moving somewhere to follow our husband, or we are not asked to apply to job because people assume that we would not be moving because of our families, or we are not even told about scientific events because they happen during week-end or kids day off. (all of these situations happened to me)

    How could the community be more welcoming, and considerate, when students or post docs have a family? Do you think your mentoring may help on this as well?

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Ira Didenkulova, 05 May 2020

      Thank you for your comment! I believe we should change the community by identifying the problem and by talking about it. 

      I like our Role Model stories, because in each story one can find something for himself. The motivations, the family and personal conditions of these Role Models are very different. But what is important, the feeling you get in the end that everything is possible, and this breaks stereotypes about who should do what.

      You can download all the books from the website and read them. I like all these stories. 

      Of course, there is also a financial part of it. The family especially the family with children, needs extra resources, and indeed some foundations do offer extra support for families. At least, in some places this already exists and should be facilitated and encouraged for others. 

  • CC2: hard copy versus digital, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 05 May 2020

    Hi Ira,

    I am wondering how hard copy it goes: are booklets distributed in paper or are you thinking of poster exhibitions and events?

    Also, how much are the partner organisations linked on the webpage? Are their own group webpages accessible?

    thank you


    • AC3: Reply to CC2, Ira Didenkulova, 05 May 2020

      No hard copies... I have seen only a few, too little for distribution.

  • CC3: Comment on EGU2020-15490, Alice Lefebvre, 05 May 2020

    Hi Ira,

    Great initiative! I am now one of MARUM's women's representatives. I will spread the word about and hope to get some women involved. Please keep us updated on how it goes.

    Hope you are well!
    All the best


    • AC2: Reply to CC3, Ira Didenkulova, 05 May 2020

      Hi, Alice! 

      Very great to hear from you! I miss MARUM!!!

      Thank you! Please, spread the word!