"I don't think that Antarctica is a man's world. It is not a woman's world either. I don't think it belongs to the sealers or the whalers or the glaciologists. I think we all share its privilege and we all share its responsibility." – Dr Michele Raney, 1979 Station physician, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (in Gender on Ice, Proceedings of a Conference on Women in Antarctica 1993).
Globally, female enrolment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields is low. To inspire and engage girls and women, the United Nations has declared 11 February the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields. Historically, there has been exclusion of women from these fields, particularly when it came to Antarctica. Women applied to join the expeditions of Shackleton, Scott and Mawson – they were all were denied.
Despite historical barriers, 55% of the Association for Polar Early Career Scientists are women. Women live and work in Antarctica and contribute in a substantial way to Antarctic science. Talented and dedicated women are involved in projects including remediation of contaminated soil, the study of marine and terrestrial life, mapping of the Antarctic icecap, monitoring of sea ice, among many others. We celebrate those who came before us, and those who will come after us.
I had planned to write a short history of those women who came before us on this continent – but Dr Meredith Nash has done a much better job in her Breaking the Ice Breaking Barriers video.
Here's to the future of women in the Division!
Antarctic Medical Practitioner