Career advances in academia is commonly considered to be meritocratic, meaning that there is a believe that anyone can succeed and be successful with hard-work and dedication. Discussions around the risk of bias inherent to a meritocratic system are increasing. A merit-based system 'discriminates' on the basis of how much 'merit' a person has, favouring those who have more of it – or are perceived to have more of it.
Discussions around meritocracy focus on two immediate issues. It assumes as a pre-condition that everyone has equal opportunities to access and, consequently, acquire merits. And also, that the assessment of merits is not always shaped and influenced by objective criteria that predict performance to the future task or position.
Regarding the first condition, the average share of women STEM in EU-28 made up 39 % of graduates at doctoral level and 35 % of grade C, 28 % of grade B and 15 % of grade A academic staff (SHE FIGURES 2018). The leaky-pipe phenomenon undermines the quality of research and represents an invaluable loss to academia, economy and society. The underrepresentation of women in higher echelons and leadership positions in academia is a complex matter hardly justified by purely meritocratic criteria.
In terms of the second condition, the criteria that predict performance depend on the quality of the assessment. Fair assessment and decisions require two conditions: i) all people are perfectly rational (and unbiased) at all times; ii) all people have access to correct information. Neither of these are trivial.
This session will focus on what to do to avoid the loss of female talent in academia as well as to promote gender equality.
Helen M. Glaves - Vice-President of the EGU
Alberto Montanari - President of the EGU
Mary Anne Holmes
Title of the contribution: Does a Meritocracy Exist in Academia (or anywhere)?
Mary Anne is a sedimentologist who uses social science research to address inequity in the geosciences. She is a former Director and co-PI of ADVANCE-Nebraska at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation [NSF] program to increase the number of women on STEM faculty), PI on two geoscience ADVANCE awards, former ADVANCE Program Officer at NSF; past President of the Association for Women Geoscientists; co-editor of “Women in the Geosciences: Practical, Positive Practices towards Parity” (Wiley, 2015) and serves on half a dozen advisory boards for ADVANCE programs across the U.S.
Mathias Wullum Nielsen, Ph.D.
Dr. Nielsen is an associate professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a sociologist by training and holds a Ph.D. in social science from Aarhus University. His research focuses on gender in science, including how gender diversity is linked to knowledge outcomes. His Ph.D. dissertation, entitled “New and Persistent Gender Equality Challenges in Academia” was defended in 2015, after which he undertook postdoctoral research in Gendered Innovations at Stanford University. He is currently a part of the European Commission’s “Gendered Innovations 2” Expert Group. Dr. Nielsen has published numerous papers on the topic of gender in science, including pieces in Nature Human Behaviour, PNAS, eLife and Research Policy.
Title of the contribution: Women meritocracy in developing countries-perspectives and challenges
Ligia is President of the Mexican Geophysical Union (UGM). In this position she has contributed to promote the geosciences in Mexico and the Americas. The UGM Annual Meeting is the largest in Latin America with more than 1000 participants. She is the Director of the Research Vessels “Justo Sierra” and “El Puma” of the National University of Mexico (UNAM). The vessels have navigated conducting oceanography and marine geophysics expeditions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. She is a researcher in the Institute of Geophysics at UNAM. Her research focuses on paleoclimate reconstructions, the Chicxulub Impact and, Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and other hyperthermal events during the Cenozoic. She has participated in more than 40 oceanographic expeditions, including IODP expeditions 364 and 385.