Visualising Pacific women in ocean science and management

Visualising Pacific women in ocean science and management

Author: Tiffany Straza – United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya, Samoa

Sefanaia Nawadra – UN Environment
Nanette Woonton – Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)

Women at all levels contribute to ocean management, use, conservation and science, but the number of Pacific scientists is low. According to the Global Ocean Science Report, the Oceania region is represented in less than 6% of ocean science publications annually and this region has one of the lowest proportions of female representation. Pressures against the selection of science careers include lack of awareness, a perceived Western or masculine nature of science, and importantly academic grade-based competition for scholarships which can strongly influence future options.

Including women’s voices in science and governance requires key strategies acknowledging social and cultural traditions. In the Pacific islands, there is a broad range of female ownership of ocean-related activities and inclusivity in ocean management, with underrepresentation in senior governance roles.

Again and again, we see that young women and girls choose career paths after seeing the success of someone with whom they identify, and this visualisation is especially critical for technical careers. By seeing how women connect with the ocean, we can identify ways to nurture those connections and strategies to incorporate women’s views and knowledge for effective integrated ocean management.

We describe the creation of a partnered initiative combining the documentation of stories by and about Pacific women as well as a global dialogue, “Healers of Our Ocean”, involving 17 international agencies and held at the first United Nations Ocean Conference, which set the global agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 14.

We consider the effectiveness of these stories for increasing the visibility of Pacific female ocean leaders to equip more women to choose these career paths and to demonstrate to development partners the need to (1) support science education within the Small Island Developing States and (2) to include women’s opinions and ocean uses in integrated ocean management decisions.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice