By Leoni Dickerhoff.
“Although women began to join oceanographic expeditions in the 60’s and female representation in academic research has increased since then, the ratio of women to men at higher ranks in ocean science still lags. New results revealed that female scientists make up for on average 38% of the researchers in ocean science, about 10 percentage points higher than the global share of female researchers.” UNESCO, Women in Oceanography (2017).
It is no surprise that white men have dominated ocean sciences for centuries. As written in many books, depicting the heroic ventures of fishermen and seafarers, where strong masculine protagonists fight off dangerous sea creatures, sail across deep dark oceans and survive catastrophic storms… the ocean is no place for a womxn.
If we take a look into the past, we see a world that has been dominated by white males for centuries – yet it seems like their guidance has let us down a path of destruction, overexploitation and greed, while womxn and children are often bearing the brunt of it. When womxn are excluded from decision making, we are overlooking the unique contributions womxn can bring to the table. Our female attributes of compassion, empathy and humility can be some of our greatest assets when it comes to sustainable resources management.
“Women are engaged in all aspects of interactions with our ocean, yet their voices are often missing at the decision-making level, the head of the United Nations cultural agency said on World Oceans Day, emphasizing that ‘we must ensure diversity and gender inclusiveness at all levels’ to set a balanced course for humanity and foster innovative solutions for the ocean.” UN, Promoting Gender Equality (2019)
We need a shift in our society that pushes for ethnic and gender diversity in order to tackle the many environmental and social problems we are facing today. I think more often than not, people heavily rely on scientists to fix the climate crisis, to come up with solutions to protect nearly extinct species, to manage fish stocks and to overall safe the planet from drowning in plastic pollution and going up in flames. While I absolutely agree that science and research is crucial to tackle those problems, it isn’t fair to put the burden of the world only on the shoulders of scientists. We currently have a population of just over 7.8 Billion people on this planet and just a small fraction of them are scientists, yet we all (let’s say most of us) want to maintain a habitable planet for humans and animals alike.
Therefore, I think it is so important to emphasize that every small step toward conservation makes a difference. Every single person on this planet, not matter their degree, income, ethnicity, religion, or gender has the power to make a positive change. I think it is a common misconception, that in order to be a conservationist you have to be a scientist. The amazing thing about conservation is that people can use their unique skills to create positive change in the world, through education, art, storytelling, community organizing, activism, photography, sports, ….
So, when I decided in March 2020, to create a platform to highlight womxn in ocean conservation and to amplify their voices, I wasn’t quite sure where this project would take me. What I was sure about, was that I wanted to create a space that was uplifting, supportive and overall positive. I wanted to create a platform that truly celebrates the passion and dedication womxn from across the globe have for our ocean environment.
The Sirene Project has been around for just over 4 months now, and it has exceeded my wildest expectations. I am so overwhelmed by the positive responses from the readers but also the incredible womxn who have shared their stories. So far I have featured 105 womxn, from different corners of the world (India, Honduras, USA, Italy, South Africa,…) with diverse backgrounds (Professors, Students, Artists, Social Media Managers, Videographers, Photographers, Surfers,…) and I truly can’t wait to see what the future holds for The Siren Project.