WOMEN IN THE GEOSCIENCES: THE AMAZING POWER OF ONE
In August 1978, I was hired by a small university in west Texas. Two members of the three-person department had been hired by oil companies earlier in the summer and the Dean had no one to cover their fall classes. I initially was hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor because industry contacts had assured the Dean that “Women geologists would never be accepted in the oil patch”. By the end of my five years in Texas, women geoscience students outnumbered men and I was a Vice President of the Permian Basin SEPM. I then joined a graduate-research department, spending my first nine years as the only woman faculty member and most of the past 25 years as the only female Full Professor. In that time I have provided mentoring to hundreds of women students, whether or not I had any role on their graduate advisory committees. Women have outnumbered men in the graduate-student ranks since the early 1990s.
A few years ago a woman became Dean of the (now) college and the power of one again was revealed. There are now seven women on our faculty, including three Full Professors. We still have a long way to go: for women the faculty-student ratio is 1:10; for men it is 1:2. Universally, women still face huge challenges in balancing career and family responsibilities, so employment opportunities that do not require 60-80 hour weeks or extended times in the field can influence education and career choices. But at least women now have choices, a consequence of the amazing power of one law: Title IX.