Dr. Sylvia Earle said, "Women are needed to help solve the ocean’s biggest problem: ignorance.” This is a powerful statement and around the world, women are working to be part of the solution. In the seventeen years that I’ve been diving and working with sharks, I have seen more and more women on the boats and in the field. We are making a difference. Women are realizing science, diving and sharks are for them too. Women are intelligent, passionate, creative and driven and we are using these skills to change the tide for the oceans.
Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is an important opportunity to not only celebrate the work being done but to inspire the next generation. Hopefully, it is also a day for women around the world to reach out to their mothers, daughters, sisters and friends, encouraging them to take action in ocean conservation, science, education and exploration.
Growing up in a small town in Maine, I did not have access to many women in science. Luckily my mom took me to the ocean and explored tide pools with me. She also snorkeled with me and was just as excited about finding a crab or snail as I was. Those experiences and her shared enthusiasm sparked a lifelong love of the ocean. Later on, my mom became a science teacher and to this day, she still inspires me to ask why and not be afraid to get my hands dirty.
In my career as a diver, marine biologist and conservationist, I have been lucky to work with some incredible women all over the world. They are scientists, divers, conservationists, photographers and ocean advocates. Their mentorship has guided me and helped me find my voice. Now, through my education work with Sharks4Kids, I hope to do the same for the next generation of passionate water women. It’s always incredible working with young women and helping them realize they can be a shark scientist, a shark dive guide or an explorer. They might end up being the only female on the boat or expedition, but that doesn’t mean they are not capable and powerful. Most of our Sharks4Kids ambassadors and volunteers are also women. I am so proud of the wonderful work they are doing, creating the next generation of shark and ocean advocates.
When people think of science, they often envision a laboratory or white coats, but this is only a small piece of the puzzle. Marine scientists are divers, ROV pilots, naturalists, dive guides, coral gardeners and so much more. They study animal migrations, coral disease, impacts of coastal development and the deep sea. Diving allows scientists to slip beneath the surface and gain a different perspective and better understanding. This is not to say that men do not do these jobs, but today is about celebrating the fact that women can have these careers and they do. Not only do they have them, but they are making discoveries, developing new technology, using data to support new legislation for ocean conservation and changing the world.
Women empowering and inspiring other women is so important. Creating a network of support and encouragement is helping to bring new ideas, new solutions and new possibilities to the world of conservation. To all the women reading this, you are making a difference. Let’s continue to support each other and help change the tide for our oceans.
All images credit Duncan Brake