Women geoscientists seek to rock the field

Members of the Baylor Association for Women Geoscientists meet together to have conversations about being women in STEM. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Rau

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

Many careers in America are male-dominated and tough for women to break into. Geoscience, like many other STEM-related fields, is one of those careers.

Irving third-year Ph.D geoscience student Elisabeth Rau wanted to be a part of the change. In spring 2018, she and her friend founded the Baylor Association for Women Geoscientists.

Rau said that because geology is a male-dominated field, this organization aims to provide an environment for women to feel comfortable and confident in becoming successful geoscientists.

“Baylor in general does a really good job of promoting the professional development of females in geosciences,” Rau said. “But [what] is really unique with AWG is that we bring in the added community part of it, the interpersonal connections that you can make with each other.”

Flower Mound graduate student and current organization vice president Julia Visy said the three pillars of the Association of Women Geoscientists are community, mentorship and networking.

“If we foster this community here, we’ll have graduate students here meeting undergraduates,” Visy said. “It’s just great networking in general.”

Visy said while this is primarily a group meant for helping women break into the field of geoscience, there are men in the group. Rau said the presence of men in the group is beneficial for the women once they get into the workforce.

“It’s a group effort. To have these wonderful female geoscientists excel and go out into the world and be amazing scientists, that is the role of us as women and men,” Rau said. “We want to educate our members and open up dialogue on how we can promote women in the geosciences.”

This organization holds “His/Her Stories” each month, where a student, faculty member or someone from outside Baylor tells his/her own personal story about a specific topic each month. They then open the panel for student questions.

Rau said these events promote conversations that generally would not happen in either the classroom or the workplace.

Visy said they are hoping to hold a special panel this semester.

“We are, this semester, hopefully going to have women that are already in the industry,” Visy said. “Baylor graduates coming back are going to talk about industry lifestyle, and just women that are specifically in petroleum geosciences.”

Rau said one of their biggest goals for the future is to increase the number of undergraduate students in the organization and their impact on women in geoscience.

“Right now, our member list is probably around 15 to 20 [students],” Rau said. “It is mostly grad students, but we would love to reach out to undergrads. We have an undergraduate representative who’s really taken initiative. Our biggest goal in terms of expanding is reaching out to undergrads.”

Visy said they have events coming up specifically for undergraduates to teach them skills such as how to apply to grad school and how to network.

Rau said it is important to learn about each individual and who they are as a person. She said promoting that sense of community will help women become better at the geoscience profession.

“We are all striving to be geologists and to excel in our fields,” Rau said. “But you can only do that if you have all these other aspects of your life in check. We have a social life, we have a religious life. . . we want to make sure that everyone here has an outlet, community or support system.”