Think of a pilot, or a doctor or a scientist. What do they look like?
The chances are that you thought of a white middle-aged male, and for the doctor or scientist they were probably wearing a white lab coat.
This automatic fall back to a social stereotype is known as unconscious bias. Everyone does it and our unconscious biases are based upon our background, culture and experiences.
However, this judgement on what someone should look like is incredibly damaging and influences a range of factors around the recruitment, training and progression of people who don’t fit that stereotype.
Yet, we can do things to limit the impact of unconscious bias. One way is to challenge and confront the stereotypes and to make gender, race and disability more visible in the workplace and media.
There are a number of events and organisations already doing this across the country, particularly for women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) disciplines. Soapbox Science, Trowel Blazers and Finding Ada to name a few, are doing some fantastic work at raising the profile of women in science and inspiring the next generation.
However, for us as geologists, there was no event or organisation specifically tackling low numbers of females entering our scientific discipline in the UK.
Geologists face a particular social stereotype of the lone man, probably with a beard, smoking a pipe, wearing tweed and climbing a mountain with a rock hammer. This Victorian gentleman is clearly not a modern scientist, yet female students are still occasionally told at school that geology is not for girls.
This is down to the wildly out of date perception that it is too physical, or that being outdoors all day is not possible if you are a female. In reality, of course none of those things are true, and like many walks of life these days a geologist spends as much, if not more time, in front of a computer than in the field.
But as a result of these stereotypes and biases, Earth Sciences degrees at UK universities typically recruit around 30 per cent female to 70 per cent male students. A similar trend is found across the physical sciences.
It was the reason that four and half years ago, we decided to start an event to showcase the range of careers and possibilities open to women in the Earth Sciences – and Girls into Geoscience (or GiG) was born.