Leading ladies in climate and environmental science, and why their profile counts

Headshots of some leading ladies in climate change and environmental science at Imperial - Helen ApSimon, Ana Mijic, Jenny Nelson, Clementine Chambon, Joanna Haigh, Jess Wade

To mark International Women’s Day, archivist Anne Barrett, author of “Women At Imperial College Past Present and Future”, and Alice White, Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library, have organised a Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’ at Imperial College London to create and improve Wikipedia pages about women in science. In this blog, equality advocate Dr Jess Wade, Research Associate in Physics, explains the rationale behind the project, and introduces some of the leading ladies in climate science.

Last month, the journal PNAS published new research that puts the spotlight the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one of the most important forums for international climate science. The report showed that, in 1990, less than 5% of IPCC authors were female. Since, the number of women has slowly increased to more than 20%, but it still falls far short of an equal footing.

Thankfully, leading voices in the climate change community recognise this short fall. At last year’s COP23, the issue of gender equality and women empowerment was prioritised in the climate change conversations. In fact, the COP23 Presidency announced the first ever Gender Action Plan, specifically to increase the participation of women in all aspect of UNFCCC processes.

Last year we published “Who runs the world? Women, if we want prosperity, sustainability and life”, which outlined the importance of women’s leadership in combating climate change. Indeed, whilst there are hundreds of initiatives and community-led programs that are generating clean energy, making farming more sustainable and revolutionising the lives of people in the developing world, I am particularly excited by women-focused programmes. These include the female-led Solar Sister, Huairou Commission’s Community Resilience Campaign and Oorja Development Solutions.

The success of programmes like these relies on education – to increase climate literacy, and community role models – to encourage young people to take action. In areas where distributing textbooks is notoriously difficult, offline access to Wikipedia can revolutionise education – and it could help young people in developing countries find out about inspiring careers and projects, as well as role models to motivate them to make a change.

At Imperial’s Wiki edit-a-thon on International Women’s Day, we are inviting volunteers to create and improve the pages about women in climate science on Wikipedia. Currently, only 17% of all English biographical articles on Wikipedia are about women, and less than 1 % are about scientists. As women are already underrepresented in science, the representation fares particularly badly on the site.

Wikipedia is an immensely powerful platform – it receives 8 billion page views a month. Creating profiles for the awesome women we already have in climate science will not only shine a light on their work, but create an accurate representation of the important people in our field to inspire future generations.

Here are a few of the leading Imperial women working in climate and environmental science already represented on Wikipedia:

  • Joanna Haigh: Professor of Atmospheric Physics and co-director of the Grantham Institute, Climate Change and the Environment, who is renowned for her work on climate models and solar variability.
  • Jenny Nelson: Professor of Physics and Head of the Mitigation team at the Grantham Institute, who has written the book on solar cells.
  • Helen ApSimon: Professor of Air Pollution Studies in the Centre for Environmental Policy, who led studies for the transport of radioactivity from the Chernobyl disaster.
  • Clementine Chambon: Echoing Green and EPSRC Research Fellow in Chemical Engineering, who works on energy solutions for energy-deprived countries.
  • Ana Mijic: Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, who specialises in urban water management.

Editing Wikipedia is easy, all you need is a username, laptop and bank of impartial references. It is empowering: you aren’t just influencing a few people, but writing an article for a website with huge global reach.

At our Wiki edit-a-thon, participants will be following in the footsteps of American medical student Emily Temple-Wood who, in 2012, began creating new entries about women in science. Four years later, she won Wikipedian of the Year, for what Wikimedia research scientists have dubbed “the Keilana Effect”. Every time Temple-Wood was criticised for her efforts on the site, she would channel her energy into writing a new biography of a woman, which resulted in a notable shift toward better Wikipedia content about women scientists. To join us at the Wiki edit-a-thon (7 March, 14:00 – 18:00), register here.

Do you have any suggestions for women role models in the world of climate science who need a Wikipedia page?

3 thoughts on “Leading ladies in climate and environmental science, and why their profile counts

  1. Yep, dozens @carlymclachlan @AliceClimate @clequere @SarahLMander @JKSteinberger mean the @TyndallCentre is full of them! <3 [from @ClaireHoolohan via twitter]

  2. Dr. Maggie Opondo from the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation. She is the Thematic head of Climate Change, Human Dimensions and Health. A Seasoned academic in the University of Nairobi. I think she needs one as a role model for African Scholars

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