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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Women in Oceanography: a decade later

Published: 1 February 2015

The biographies of two prominent Oceanographers from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton have featured in the ‘Women in Oceanography: a decade later’ report released by The Oceanography Society (TOS).

This report details the significant progress women in oceanography have made over the past decade and barriers that remain following on from the first ‘Women in Oceanography’ volume in March 2005. Professor Rachel Mills and Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams from Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, featured in the report alongside Dr Stephanie Henson, Dr Penny Holliday, and Dr Margaret Yelland, NERC scientists, all based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS). The report features early career researchers to notable academics from across the globe.

By tracing the career trajectories of these scientists, the autobiographical sketches offer a perspective on the progress made towards achieving gender equality in oceanography in the last decade. Comments suggest progress has been made in career advancement but also highlight where further attention to this issue might still be needed. The sketches offer advice to aspiring female oceanographers, as well as providing a wonderful insight into the field of oceanography and stories detailing their personal experiences.

The sketches also show that, in terms of demographics, a great deal of progress has been made since the last issue: much higher numbers of women are attending conferences, working on ships and graduating with PhDs in oceanography. They also describe what these women have found the most rewarding about their careers, what their greatest challenges have been, how they responded to them, and how they achieve the work/life balance.


Professor Rachel Mills, Head of Ocean and Earth Science and Dr Eleanor Frajka-Williams, a Lecturer of Physical Oceanography at the University both highlight the importance of mentoring. Rachel commented ‘If I had one tip for younger women scientists, it would be to find a mentor, better still, find several mentors and use them mercilessly in your times of need.’ Eleanor also noted ‘I have relied on both practical and moral support from a variety of sources: my husband, an understanding boss, several incredible mentors in the department and in MPOWIR (Mentoring Physical Oceanographers to Increase Retention; see MPOWIR article in this issue), and now a critical mass of young female colleagues in Earth sciences at Southampton.

It is a significant achievement to be featured in this benchmarking report. Both Rachel and Eleanor have achieved noteworthy impact in their respective fields and are a great exemplar for women in science who are now inspiring the next generation of both female and male oceanographers at Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton.


Notes for editors

  1. The "Women in Oceanography: A Decade Later" supplement has just been published on the TOS website! View the issue and download high- or low-resolution versions of the publication.
  2. The National Oceanography Centre Southampton is a centre for research excellence hosting a collaborative research and teaching environment with academics, students and staff from both Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton and NERC’S research Institute, The National Oceanography Centre with sites in both Southampton and Liverpool.
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