Women in Climate Science

On the occasion of this year's International Women's Day, we asked our female scientists about their thoughts on women and their work.

08.03.2019

 

 

Dr. Anna Leipprand
Researcher
Governance

What is your inspiration as a climate scientist?

“Since I was a kid I have been concerned about how modern human life threatens to damage our planet. Trying to minimize my own ecological footprint, I quickly realized that this is an extremely hard thing to do if structural conditions and financial incentives keep pushing you in just the opposite direction. Today I am motivated by the vision of our democratic society managing to create conditions that make a sustainable way of life easy and natural.”

What is your research topic?

“In my research I am interested in energy and sustainability transition processes. I analyze which policies can promote transitions, how stakeholders with different interests and values influence the process, and which public discourses are associated with it.”

What are the gender implications of your topic?

“Climate protection is a task that above all requires us to join forces. The impacts of climate change globally often affect women more strongly and immediately than men. At the same time, women are still and often dramatically underrepresented in politics, science and business, in particular at leadership levels. We need to change this, firstly because gender equality is a global sustainable development goal, but also because we need “feminist solutions” to the climate problem (Mary Robinson) and cannot afford not to use female knowledge, skills and approaches. I think we need diversity more generally to solve the big and complex problems we are facing.”

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

“I think women should claim their half of the power in science, society and politics and take on half of the responsibility, so that women and men together can make full use of complementary ideas and approaches. To get there, we need changes in structural conditions, ranging from quotas and childcare provisions to cultural norms for instance on what makes a good and successful leader. On the other hand, as women we need to be courageous, trust our strengths and accept the challenges of equal participation.”

 

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Barbora Sedova
PhD researcher

Economic Growth and Human Development

What is your research topic?

“In my research, I focus on climate change-induced migration and economic inequality in the developing world. In particular, I study how the impacts of climate change vary across different segments of populations.”

To what extent is your topic particularly relevant for women? What consequences does climate change/your topic have for women in particular and what can you do about it?

„Climate change has an important gender dimension regarding migration as well as inequality. Due to their different roles and responsibilities; the vulnerabilities, experiences, and needs of men and women are not the same. Researching who suffers the largest economic losses, who migrates or remains trapped in response to the adverse climate change impacts is important to design policies protecting the most vulnerable groups. With my research, I make a contribution in this area.”

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

“Nowadays, women represent only one third of researchers globally. Therefore, my hope is not only to see an increased representation of women in the science in general, but also in the higher academic positions.”

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

“To me, this day is a great opportunity to celebrate great women of our history. However, this day should also remind us that the progress towards the gender equality and women empowerment has been slow. Women are still exposed to challenges such as lack of equal opportunities or gender-based discrimination.”

 

 

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Prof. Dr. Sabine Fuss

Head of working group
Sustainable Resource
Management and Global Change

What is your inspiration as an environmental economist?  

“Recently, I have mainly dealt with the huge challenge of the 1.5°C target and how it can be implemented to ensure compatibility with other sustainability targets. This is particularly exciting because it will no longer be enough to avoid further emissions at this point in time. We will also have to ‘clean up’ some of the emissions we have already released into the atmosphere.”

What challenges do women face in climate science and how do they deal with them?

“Neither climate science nor economics have a high proportion of women. We are moving in the right direction, but are still often in a situation where panel discussions and lecture series are dominated by colleagues.”

To what extent is your topic particularly relevant for women? What consequences does climate change/your topic have for women in particular and what can we do about it?

“In many parts of the world, women in particular are very vulnerable to climate change impacts because they lack access to infrastructure and economic resources to adapt as much as we can. This makes it all the more relevant to commit to an ambitious climate goal that also needs to be reconciled with other sustainability goals.”

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

„Women can become chancellors and make an important contribution to science – my vision is to make all women aware of this!“

What significance does International Women's Day have for you?

„This day gives us the opportunity to pause for a moment in our fast-moving everyday lives and think about where we stand and where we want to go, and also about women who are disadvantaged, and to consider how we could open up better opportunities for them.“

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Anjali Ramakrishnan
Doctorate researcher
Land Use, Infrastructure and Transport

What is your inspiration as a climate scientist? 

“The understudied and less understood nature of energy demand in the Global South, more specifically India, and the interwoven socio-cultural dynamics of energy use.”     

What are the challenges women face in climate science and how do you deal with them?

“While we’ve seen a rise in the share of female climate scientists at entry levels, uncertainty in career paths and poor incentives to continue in the field has left the female representation at mid and senior levels, ill-balanced. This calls for an equal awareness and recognition of issue amongst all parties, and also a collective effort of organisations to prioritise in their institutional agendas.”          

To what extent is your topic particularly relevant for women? What consequences does climate change/your topic have for women in particular and what can you do about it?

“Studying household energy use allows me also explore the role of gender in decision making on energy expenditure, amongst other demand-side factors. This is significant in cooking energy use, where women are often the users and direct recipients of the impacts of the fuels (biomass or gas) used for cooking. Improved quality research on this issue would help alleviate the negative health impacts, and also facilitate an equal role in household energy decision making.”       

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

“A stage where an 'All women's panel' is no longer an exception; where job portals will not need to (additionally) mention 'We welcome applications, especially from qualified women'; where 'gender gap' is a closed history chapter.” 

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Johanna Arlinghaus
PhD candidate

Sustainable Resource Management and Global Change

What is your research topic?

“In my PhD research, I aim to study the practical workings of price-based environmental policy instruments. More broadly, I am interested in the interactions between tax and environmental policy.”

What are the main challenges women face in economics and climate science?

“Recent publications show that gender imbalances in economicsclimate science, and science more generally remain pervasive. While progress towards equal representation is slow, the good news is that everyone can play an active role in enhancing gender balance and diversity – for example when next inviting speakers for a panel discussion, or in upcoming recruitment processes.” #BalanceforBetter

Which consequences does climate change have for women, and what can research do about it? 

The impacts of climate change are not gender neutral. For example, women and children are 14 times more likely to die during a natural disaster than men. In addition, though gender-specific data tends to be hard to obtain, we know that girls and women face a larger likelihood of being poor. For researchers, this underlines the need to consistently attempt to evaluate whether (environmental) policies pose a disproportionate burden on specific population groups, and to come up with feasible policies to mitigate regressive or other disproportionate effects, where necessary.”

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Ira Dorband
Doctorate researcher
Climate and Development

 

What is your inspiration as a climate scientist? 

"I find a lot of inspiration and motivation in perceiving myself as part of large group of people and institutions around the world, joined in the common endeavor to reduce climate change. Each individual and member is progressing on their topic, their little focus area, but together we work to inform the greater picture and necessary means for global mitigation."

To what extent is your topic particularly relevant for women? What consequences does climate change/your topic have for women in particular and what can you do about it?

"My personal focus is on political economy questions, so what motivates some jurisdictions opt for emission reduction measures while others refuse. On the one hand, I analyze distributional effects – who would be impacted by climate protection measures most, on the other hand, I try to understand the power struggles and deep vested interests, self-perception and path dependencies which might lead to countries’ increasing carbonization. Both topics strongly relate to gender and reveal a gap whose alleviation is an integral part of the solution: while women have been found to care more about the environment and, at the same time, to be more vulnerable to climate change impacts, the bigger political economy picture and decision-making are in the majority of countries still a story of men."

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

"In order to further close this gender gap, both in science and in politics, it is indispensable to support women both on the individual level as well as structurally. In German academia, this means especially creating more positions with long-term contracts; more generally, this means increasing the flexibility of jobs, including options to work part time, remotely, and flexible working hours. Not only would that increase female participation, but also it would follow the international trends of modern job markets."

What significance does International Women's Day have for you?

"The more attention is given to the topic of gender and women’s roles in our society, the better. The International Women’s Day is one way to bring the issue to public awareness."

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Dr. Ulrike Kornek
Post-Doc researcher

Governance

 

What is your inspiration as an environmental economist?  

“Climate change is a fascinating research topic. It relates to so many aspects of policy, society, history, technology and personal life. I have decided to take the economic lens to analyze climate change mitigation because in my opinion it is the science that is able to deal with the complex nature of the problem in the most comprehensive way.”

What challenges do women face in climate science and how do they deal with them?

“Science in general can be a frustrating experience for women. Young women striving to innovate lack role models as male scholars dominate academia. In my experience, women have to be especially resilient to being the minority in most meetings to feel comfortable enough to pursue the career.”

To what extent is your topic particularly relevant for women? What consequences does climate change/your topic have for women in particular and what can we do about it?

“My research methods are mathematical and computer science based. I know that women have been at the frontier of research in these areas. I therefore hope more women realize how much fun economic research is.”

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

„I hope we can enhance the female share in science to improve the working experience for everyone. Equal opportunity does not stop there. By moving towards an equitable experience for people of any kind in all areas of life, the world will generally become a better place. I invite everyone to join the conversation about how to achieve this goal.“

What significance does International Women's Day have for you?

„It is a reminder of all the great achievements that people have fought for over the past century and that I benefit from. Change is possible if we work together. It is also the opportunity to ask myself: What is the next step that we can take as a society?“

 

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Dr. Brigitte Knopf
Secretary
General
Directorate

 

What is your inspiration as a climate scientist?

My inspiration is to work on policy options and solutions for mitigating climate change and ensuring a just transition. Bringing together the environmental and the social dimension – that is my primary inspiration. For that I want to facilitate a dialogue among different stakeholders with conflicting interests to break up fragmented discourses.

What are the challenges women face in climate science and how do you deal with them?

There is a 'leaky pipeline' concerning the share of women in research: while there is quite a high share of female PhD candidates, the share of female PostDoc researchers drops considerably. It is therefore important to remove visible and invisible barriers concerning the gender bias. Quotas, mentoring programs, and support for combining a scientific career with family life are important cornerstones to overcome that gap.

What is your vision for women in science and in the world?

As almost everywhere, women are underrepresented in science, especially in physics (where I worked earlier) and in the field of energy and economics (where I work now). That is why I have always missed female role models. Fortunately, a lot has changed in recent years and women are becoming increasingly visible and self-confident in this area and also occupy management positions. But let's not kid ourselves: there is still a long way to go before there is complete equality.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

International Women's Day reminds us that there is still no equality in terms of income, equal access to high-ranking positions and networks. It is therefore a day on which we women should make claims half of the power. In addition, I would like that we mutually encourage us to take on active responsibility also for leadership positions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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