EGU General Assembly 2020
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Breaking Gender Barriers: Local actions towards gender equality

Martina Ulvrova
Martina Ulvrova
  • ETH Zurich, Institute for Geophysics, Department of Earth Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland (

Geosciences together with larger STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) communities are highly burdened with striking imbalance between female and male researchers especially at high level positions. Indeed, for example in Earth and Planetary Sciences women represent only around 37% of the scientific community. Moreover, different expressions of gender biases tend to preserve these male dominated environments and thwart achieving gender balanced work places. In this contribution, I present three local actions that aim to improve gender diversity in science and promote gender equality. 1) Together with the 500 Women Scientists organisation and supported by the host university, I have been organising a series of Breaking Gender Barriers discussion evenings. These events include short presentations by female experts, and panel and roundtable discussions. We target female researchers in their early careers to increase their competitiveness, motivate them, show them female role models and provide them with networking opportunities. 2) I co-created a mentoring group at my host institution that helps in career building, provides a safe environment for sharing and offers networking opportunities. 3) Lack of female role models in science (evinced already at very early age in the education chain) impedes heavily the communities to evolve into gender parity systems. That is why I present female scientific role models depicted on high quality posters to large public. Combination of these actions are critical in motivating young girls to pursue a scientific career, support sustainable career development and contribute as a solution to losing female researchers at diverse career stages known as the leaky pipeline problem.   

How to cite: Ulvrova, M.: Breaking Gender Barriers: Local actions towards gender equality , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-21435,, 2020

Comments on the presentation

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Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 01 May 2020
  • CC1: role models, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 02 May 2020

    Very interesting presentation.

    I would like to know more on the role models. Are they historical? Europeana has an exhibition on 8 important women, including the first engineer, a Romanian, who worked at the geological institute (as a chemist though). Also I organised a session several years ago which was featured at EGU today including some contemporary, but also historical role models. And at the MoMoWo conference in Turin 2 years ago at the session in tourism which I attended there were some (historical) geoscientist portraits. Thank you.

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Martina Ulvrova, 02 May 2020

      I made quite a "safe" choice in the sense that all the role models are historical role models. I love reading about history of diverse discoveries and also I love reading about inspirational females (e.g. I recommand the french book Ni vues ni connues). So I picked several role models based on that. Some names come from the scientific community. I asked experts from different branches of the Earth sciences to give me names of important people in their fields. Also with my former officemate, we used to put names of remarkable female researcher on our whiteboard whenever one of us read about someone notable (there are increasing number of well-written articles about important female researchers such as this one about Maria Mitchell). Few names come from that source.    

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 02 May 2020

        WOW this is a very interesting article indeed. Thank you for sharing!

        What do you plan with your results? Will you do a database, presentations, or articles/a book?

        • AC2: Reply to CC2, Martina Ulvrova, 02 May 2020

          First step is to release about eight high quality illustrated posters. The idea is that anyone can print them at home or school. I will put them online and diffuse through different associations. I will see if the scientific communities and large public are interested and then maybe reliese a second series with more role models. 

          • CC3: posters, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 02 May 2020

            That's a great idea!

            We were working with role models at the Marie Curie Fellows Association and then Marie Curie Alumni Association, but did booklets instead. Posters as exhibition are suitable for us as university I will try it. At the associations we had contemporary women, but in my research there were historical ones (architects and landscape architects). Actually last year I did an exhibition in London, with 2 historical and 6 contemporary role models, as well as 4 influencers. A pity though that the posters are not distributed although I worked very intensely as curator on the exhibition several months. Nor did they come to Romania from London.

            • AC3: Reply to CC3, Martina Ulvrova, 02 May 2020

              Your exhibition sounds awesome. Great job in putting energy into this. 

              I can contact you once the posters are finished to arrange an exhibition at your university with role models from Earth sciences. There will be eight posters. 

              • CC4: exhibition, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 03 May 2020

                Thank you! Awesome! That would be great!

                I've done similarly with the exhibition on "renewable energy" from the COST action TU1401, I've itinerated it in more places (for example researcher night, conferences at the fair at the Romanian exhibition place, and also university). I recall there were also 6, then 8 posters.

  • CC5: Comment on EGU2020-21435, Kelsi Singer, 05 May 2020

    Thanks for sharing this information, it is nice to see ideas for locally inspiring under-represented groups :).

    • AC4: Reply to CC5, Martina Ulvrova, 05 May 2020

      I am happy to share. I am active in gender-related actions but indeed, these would work for any under-represented groups. You can make a big impact.