Promoting gender equality in fisheries science is necessary to achieve development and conservation goals, but a significant gender gap still exists at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM). On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11st 2018, we took the opportunity to hear from Pacific women working in fisheries science about their experiences, motivations and advice to young women and girls.
Lucy is a Junior Professional with the Data Management Division of the Oceanic Fisheries Programme at SPC.
As a woman in fisheries, there will be challenges faced whether internally or externally in this field as it is traditionally a male dominated field. No matter how difficult the situation, I have learnt that being vocal and speaking out to correct issues and promote respect at work has helped me overcome any challenges I have faced.
My motivation in this field lies greatly on my acknowledgement of the importance of marine resources in the lives of people in the Pacific region. As resource owners, we need to work together to understand, protect and conserve this resource for the future. Working in fisheries has helped me to appreciate the significant contribution that our marine resources play, and our role as resource owners and managers of our fisheries.
It is a constant struggle to achieve research goals with limited resources, and sometimes being a woman in a male-dominated field can make my work more difficult than it is for my male counterparts. I overcome these challenges with hard work and determination.
Working in fisheries gives me the opportunity to a make real difference. I really enjoy researching suitable mariculture techniques for target species as a benchmark study in my country. I love that my work allows me to discover new information, and then use that information to help protect PNG’s unique marine ecosystems and contribute to food security.
My advice to young women interested in fisheries science is to take up the challenge and never feel that you’re not good enough. There is so much to discover and research in this field, and we women have the patience and persistence to be great fisheries scientists.
Mariculture Scientist, National Fisheries Authority in Papua New Guinea
Fisheries science is a male dominated field that can be challenging both physically and mentally. I have been lucky to work with great colleagues (men and women) that helped me shape my career and manage the physical and mental demands of my jobs.
As a Pacific Islander, we depend heavily on the ocean for our livelihood and wellbeing. To be in a field that contributes to sustainable management and conservation of marine resources is very rewarding.
My advice to young women interested in fisheries science is to be bold and take on the challenge, and always have confidence in what you do and say. Also remember that sometimes being a woman in a male dominated field can actually be an advantage!
Maria Fiasoso Sapatu
Programme Associate, Conservation International’s Pacific Islands & Ocean Program in Samoa
My working environment is dominated by men, which can at times be quite isolating. Sometimes I have been not been able to participate in activities such as diving, cleaning tanks and raceways and cleaning hatchery equipment for micro algae mass culture. When this happens and I need to delegate tasks to my male colleagues, I am still present to give the right advice and support.
Many marine resources are overexploited throughout the Pacific, and require good and careful management. It feels great to be working in jobs that I enjoy, and that I can have a real impact in.
My advice to girls and young women is to embrace the challenge – fisheries provides a fascinating career and is important to protect and conserve the marine ecosystems that God has blessed us with.
Sarah Botaake Teetu
Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development in Kiribati