Dig a 1m deep hole to bury 30L buckets to catch frogs and lizards, drag 2m nets onto a river bed to fish for fish, or hang 2.5m high hammocks with them 10 m wide to collect birds and bats Housework for a woman, right?
Not correct. The idea that women cannot do certain jobs because they are more physically demanding and therefore not good field workers has long since collapsed. They just forgot to warn male colleagues.
The actions described above are some of the ways to collect animals in the wild that zoologists, scientists devoted to animal research, face. And in Brazil more than half of them are women – although they are still fighting for acceptance in the region.
With this in mind, a group of Brazilian zoologists founded the Women in Zoology network. “In general, women are much less recognized than their male counterparts, which means that fewer women hold prominent positions in academia. This situation of inequality is even more noticeable when we talk about the study of animals: Society – and even some scientists – do not expect women to be able to go to the middle of the forests to catch animals, ”says Veronica Slobodian, Professor at the University of Brasília and the creators of the network.
The first spark for creating the group was a symposium during the pre-pandemic 2020 Brazilian zoology congress, organized by the entomologist (who studies the insects) and postdoctoral fellow in the Evolutionary Biology program at the State University of Ponta Grossa, Rafaela Falaschi. “I went back to the lab with the idea of continuing with the group, but then the pandemic came,” he says. We are a family business.
Months passed and the publication of a controversial article in the Nature Group’s journal Nature Communications reignited the flame. The text states that guiding senior researchers to students negatively impacted their research, resulting in fewer citations and less scientific impact.
“The impact that criticized this extremely troublesome article brought us back together to publish an answer,” said University of Maryland herpetologist (studying reptiles and amphibians) and postdoctoral fellow Luisa Diele-Viegas.
One of the points raised by the researchers is that the metric used by the authors to assess the long-term effect of female orientation, number of citations, and participation in article co-authorship is exactly where the gender bias in the academy is evident . Although a 2019 survey found that women subscribe to 72% of the articles in the country, that number drops to less than 20% when the lead authors are men in zoology and ecology.
According to the data, participation in articles has increased from 27% to 31% over the past decade, although women are still a minority in these areas. However, when looking at articles with women as first and last authors, there has been a decrease in publication in magazines specifically dealing with zoology.
In the study of fish, a poll conducted the same year by researchers from the IctioMulheres network, it was found that 43% of graduate students were women, but only 38% were lead authors in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology, the most important in the region.
Another question: “In addition to less than 30% invited to great lectures, women are only 19% on the board and directors of the company,” explains Priscila Camelier, a biologist and professor at the Federal University of Bahia who teaches at IctioMulheres participates and also integrates the Women in Zoology network.
This pattern was repeated in the Brazilian Society of Ornithology (Study of Birds), where nearly half of the active members (44%) are women, but only 22% of the articles published in the Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia had women as first authors.
For Diele-Viegas, zoological societies are now starting to have this type of discussion, and one of the group’s goals is to start the debate about why gender representation is important. “As zoologists, we get into complicated situations. There have been many reports of harassment. Field work is often done at night in remote areas that are difficult to access when we have to spend weeks in a shelter. We are trying to summarize these issues and encourage discussion in order to change the path from now on. “
The herpetologist also affirms that, along with the difficulty of keeping academic output high amid other daily demands such as motherhood, harassment is the main reason for abandoning academic careers among women.
“One of the greatest challenges is to achieve a very strict policy against harassment at universities and institutions and thus avoid the so-called ‘pipeline leak’. [exclusão das mulheres nas posições mais altas da carreira científica]”, it says.
Recently, USP’s Postgraduate Dean’s Office launched a maternal researcher support program aimed at providing scholarships to students enrolled in graduate courses who are also mothers and whose research has been affected by the pandemic.
The Parent in Science program, founded by biologist Fernanda Staniscuaski, has the same goal, but with a national scope. The impact of motherhood, rather than fatherhood, on researchers is mainly felt and is manifested in a decrease in productivity during the months or even years of caring for the children.
Two years after the change was approved, CNPq, an agency affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology, began adding maternity leave to the Lattes curriculum on April 15.
“Although there are many interesting initiatives pending, our discussion does not end there. We need to discuss women’s participation in zoology, gender differences and harassment in this area in order to achieve the change we want, ”asks Camelier.