A set of lackluster statistics gave added import to the
Second World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Conference on Women in
Meteorology and Hydrology. Over 130 delegates from more than 100 countries
met at WMO’s Geneva headquarters on 24–27 March to mull
the progress of women since the first such meeting, held six years earlier
Delegates from over 100 nations attended the Second
WMO Conference on Women in Meteorology and Hydrology. (Photo courtesy
Dian Seidel, NOAA.)
Participants found that the 48 recommendations made at the Bangkok
-meeting remained solid. In part, though, that’s because surveys
compiled for each meeting paint such a consistently dismal picture.
“When we compared the 1997 and 2001 survey results, we found
that, overall, very little progress had been made,” says Sepi
Yalda (Millersville University of Pennsylvania). In the 105 nations
that responded to the 2001 WMO survey, an average of 23% of professionals
in the national meteorological and hydrological services are women.
The representation is even lower in the United States, where only about
12% are female. Both figures are comparable to those from the 1997 survey,
which looked at employment throughout the discipline, including government,
academic, and private sectors.
The U.S. lag behind global trends is especially striking in academia.
The 1997 survey found that the percentage of women among meteorological
and hydrological professionals in academia was 32% globally but only
11% nationally. A survey in 2000–01 by the American Geological
Institute found similar results: about 12% of U.S. geoscience professors
at all ranks were women.
Why did the Bangkok recommendations fail to make much of a dent? A
lack of follow-up was one major problem identified by delegates. In
Geneva, they called for a set of mechanisms that would ensure action
and accountability. Yalda and her colleagues are working hard to get
the word out. A forthcoming article in the Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society will summarize the Geneva meeting.
In June, about 50 people met for a brown-bag lunch and discussion
in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was organized by Mary Glackin, NOAA assistant
administrator for program planning and integration. “The audience
expressed surprise that the percentage of women representing the United
States in WMO activities was lower than for other developed countries,”
says Glackin. “Also, we noticed that this audience was not familiar
with the organization and operation of the WMO, so it was a good opportunity
to educate folks.”
Along with Yalda and Glackin, the U.S. delegation to Geneva included
National Weather Service director John “Jack” Kelly and
a number of other NOAA staff, as well as Maria Pirone (AER, Inc.), representing
the private sector.
Yalda was one of only two delegates at the meeting from academia.
She’s eager to bring the WMO findings to the attention of the
university sector, and she hopes to recruit more female professors to
serve on WMO technical commissions and take on other agency roles. “There
are really not a lot of women serving in high-level positionsat the
WMO,” says Yalda.
Plans are under way for a follow-up session to be held at next January’s
AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle in coordination with the society’s
Board of Women and Minorities. Michel Jarraud, the secretary general–elect
of the WMO, plans to address the session, according to Glackin. “He
attended the WMO conference in March and has expressed a strong interest
in this topic.”
by Bob Henson