Lets talk about SEX(ism), Baby.  

by Elouise Haskin

“If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family - and a whole nation.” African proverb.

Gendered barriers exist across many industries including marine science and research, with few exceptions globally. The overall lower rate of female inclusion exists due to many reasons, from deep-rooted and outdated traditions, to modern mishaps which simply don’t consider the needs of female workers within industries. For example, in some underdeveloped nations, women are valued for little more than their reproductive abilities and are simply not considered capable of more. Another example lies in developed nations where, although many women have succeeded in entering the paid workforce, childcare burdens often still fall upon them. Achieving senior positions can be difficult, in part because child-care assistance has not been considered a necessity in advancing the careers of male predecessors. Generally, the lack of consideration for female needs has created a barrier for them entering, and remaining employed in paid workspaces (Piszczek, 2018). These barriers are generally owed to poorly informed governance of patriarchal societies, and in some cases can be a form of control over women. Generally, these difficulties are exacerbated for women of colour (McKinsey & Company & Lean In, 2021).

Research focusing on female access to education and inclusion (and increased diversity in general) in workplaces strongly correlates to economic growth and wellbeing (Knowles et al., 2002; Thévenon et al., 2012). While this information is freely available, many social and economic pre-existing barriers are still present. By supporting women who face these barriers by providing the ability to gain education and training, we benefit society, families and offer better problem-solving skills for 21st century global challenges. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Galileo, and of course Albert Einstein are common household names (and, rightly so). However, while their discoveries were just as, if not more impactful to the world, many female names have not been given such recognition. Rosalind Franklin, the scientist responsible for the discovery of the DNA helix structure was not recognized (even as a contributor) for her work when the first models were presented to the public, nor listed on the subsequent Nobel Prize. Another, Katherine Johnson, who worked as a computer at NASA did not have her contributions recognized for years – even though her mathematical calculations helped send astronauts around the earth and moon! Recently, she has received more recognition after the film ‘Hidden Figures’ aired in 2016, to highlight the sexism, and especially racism that she and her colleagues faced. These women, and many more fought hard to participate in society and experienced countless barriers. Imagine the countless more important discoveries that could have been made by now, if it were not for the prejudice which women face.

© Michel Strongoff, Chris Scarffe, Andrea Ferrari

This inspired the birth of Daughters of the Deep, an international organisation which facilitates the education of women so that they can overcome social and economic barriers which inhibit their participation in marine related industries. This campaign was begun by members of Conservation Diver, who, through their many collective years in the science and conservation industry, could not help but notice the huge disparity between the participation of men and women. By collaborating with marine science researchers, educators, tourism professionals and others, Daughters of the Deep are building the bridges to bring funding and opportunity to women across many pre-dominantly developing countries around the world. Social equality is not only necessary to furthering global movements into the 21st century, but, it is only fair that women have equal opportunity to study, be paid for their work, and follow their aspirations.

© Jake Parker

If you would like to support this work, you can donate to our colleagues at Daughters of the Deep here.

  • Knowles, S., Lorgelly, P. K., & Owen, P. D. 2002. Are educational gender gaps a brake on economic development? Some cross‐country empirical evidence. Oxford economic papers, 54(1), 118-149.
  • McKinsey & Company & Lean In. 2021. Women in the Workplace 2021.
  • Piszczek, M. M. 2020. Reciprocal relationships between workplace childcare initiatives and collective turnover rates of men and women. Journal of Management, 46(3), 470-494.
  • Thévenon, O., Ali, N., Adema, W., & del Pero, A. S. 2012. Effects of reducing gender gaps in education and labour force participation on economic growth in the OECD.