1 Foreword and motivation
The importance of an equal, inclusive and diverse research ecosystem is indisputable. The second half of the twentieth century was characterized by a progressively rising awareness on the necessity to work on a more gender-balanced social structure. As a result, during the last few decades increasing attention has been given to the topic “gender and science”, underlining how much careers in science and academia are still subject to gender discrimination. The growing interest and the urgency for change are attested by the large number of commissions and working groups on the topic in national (e.g., Swiss Federal Council, Swiss National Science Foundation, National Science Foundation, USA) and international organizations (European Commission, UNESCO) together with a flourishing number of publications in international journals addressing the problem (e.g., Bernard and Cooperdock 2018; Fassa and Gauthier 2010; Hong and Page 2004; Medin and Lee 2012; Nelson and Cheng 2017; Studer 2012; Wenham et al. 2020). In Switzerland, programs dedicated to promote gender diversity and equality in academic research are supported by the Swiss Federal Government since the beginning of the 2000s through four successive “Equal Opportunities in University” programs. Targets and recommendations have been defined by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Swiss University Conference (CUS) and the Rectors’ Conference of Swiss Universities (CRUS) (Dubois-Shaik and Fusulier 2015; Dubach et al. 2017).
The clear and principal observation is that the proportion of women in academia progressively decreases with advancing career stages (Fig. 1a). This phenomenon is known as the “leaky pipeline”, which affects all research field, but is particularly accentuated in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics; Fig. 1b) disciplines, with the geosciences representing the least diverse of all (Bernard and Cooperdock 2018).
However, as highlighted by the Swiss committee of the Gendering the Academy and Research: combating Career Instability and Asymmetries project (GARCIA project, http://garciaproject.eu/), the scarcity of reliable data on the different positions in academic careers makes it difficult to analyze the problem, assess the reasons and provide solutions.
Data availability is therefore essential for establishing a constant monitoring of the gender diversity and equality evolution in the various academic categories.
With this report, we wish to contribute to the understanding of the progress made in the geosciences by looking at the gender representation at the Swiss Geoscience Meeting (SGM). The SGM has been held every year since 2003 and it represents a continuous dataset for gender of participants, providing a portrait of the status and evolution of the gender distribution in Swiss Geosciences over the last 17 years. In addition, participants belong to both fields of geology and geography, giving the opportunity to evaluate both vertical and horizontal gender segregation.