A short drive from Budapest, and we arrived at the Balaton Limnological Institute, along the green banks of Lake Balaton on a warm August afternoon. Balaton Limnological Institute has been a world leading research facility since its establishment in 1927, and Lake Balaton, the largest natural lake in central Europe, has played an important role in the landscape across geological time scales. The lake remains locally and regionally famous as a summer tourist destination, and despite ongoing human dependencies it continues to support diverse wetlands and species.
Students lead all presentations in The Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) series, including the one held in Hungary. In Hungary, there were also a few non-student plenary speakers at SCCS, whose talks are aimed to offer students insights to topical themes and discussions in the field of conservation science. I was lucky enough to get to spend a few hours in the centre library - lined with stacks of limnological archives peeking out of polished wooden shelves. I was in the library, along with my fellow Society for Conservation Biology Europe Section (SCB - ES) colleague, Barbara Mihok, to lead a discussion on Women in Science.
Participants of Women in Science discussion at SCCS Hungary.
Original photo by: Ferenc Jordan
Given ongoing concerns and discussions about how to best overcome challenges faced with representation of women in scientific fields, Barbara and I believed a facilitated discussion and uplifting presentation would be a useful contribution for advancing this dialogue. We hoped that our event could foster an open and secure space for students to share and discuss with each other about diversity in science, specifically with regards to challenges faced by women, and also to share solutions and ideas about how to overcome these challenges.
Our Women in Science discussion aimed to identify potential barriers to women in science fields, and also to identify actions that each of us could take to move toward solutions and change in our respective field of science and our workplaces. Along with the discussion we included a presentation from Sarah Dalrymple (SCB-ES) who shared her own experiences, career development, and inspirational words with all workshop participants. Attended by both women and men, the discussion was generally positive, and diverse. We heard and shared experiences, stories, and identified actions that we each could take to be more proactive and supportive in driving the change we wish to see in terms of more women in leadership roles, and alongside each of us in our career progression.
Along with my passion for freshwater conservation comes my passion to ensure more representative and equitable experiences for women in the sciences. It was a rewarding experience to attend a conference held at a bastion of freshwater science and to lead a discussion on women in science. I took a lot from the workshop, both in terms of learning from others and in terms of how I would lead such an event differently if I were to be given the opportunity to do it again in the future. For example, while Barbara and I initially felt it would be the most inclusive to open our session to both women and men, we found that the dialogue based approach resulted in men's voices being heard more than the women's voices.
To have a more balanced approach to these discussions, we determined that we could both strengthen our facilitation approach, and hold multiple different events, including several women only events to support a more active dialogue between women, and then a single event that includes men in the discussion. Barbara and I have both taken courses on facilitation, and are increasingly working to overcome challenges with diversity and inclusion in the work place, but you can always refine your approaches and gear them better to the audiences of each event. We both welcome feedback from participants, and non-participants based on this reflection, and ultimately aim to strengthen and diversify the types of events that we and others can hold for women and other minorities in science, giving clear consideration to intersection of gender and other factors, at professional conferences.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the SCCS Hungary conference, and welcome the chance to participate in more SCCS conferences around the world. Along with a lot of learning, I also took away new professional connections, friendships and experiences.
Post by Steph Januchowski-Hartley
About the author: Steph is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Universite Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France. In addition to her research on dam impacts on freshwater fishes, she also draws, writes poetry and is an active member of the Society for Conservation Biology!