Support the Women in Paleontology Luncheon at SVP 2017!


Editor's note: This guest post comes to us from Catherine Early, one of the co-organizers of the WSVP 2017 event. The image above, provided by the author, may be shared on social media.

Women* make up half of the world’s population, but data show that they are underrepresented in STEM fields (Hill et al. 2010, Shen 2013). Often, this gender disparity is not obvious when one examines the demographics of students in various fields, but it becomes more exaggerated at every educational level past secondary school. It reaches its inevitable conclusion with the greatest gender disparity seen in the highest professional roles (Hill et al. 2010, Shen 2013, Huyer 2015; but see Ceci et al. 2014, Miller & Wai 2015).

Paleontology and geosciences are not exempt from this trend, with data on membership in professional societies in these fields often indicating that although women comprise close to half of student members, they account for, on average, less than a fourth of professional members (Stigall 2013, Plotnick et al. 2014, Whatley & Beck 2016). Observations and data on another metric of success in these fields, senior or sole authorship on oral presentations, also show that women account for disproportionately fewer of these high-profile positions than their male counterparts (Stigall 2013, Plotnick et al. 2014, Arbour 2016). Data on participation of women in science also indicate that the gender gap in the geosciences and in STEM fields in general has shrunk throughout the years, which is heartening, but does not indicate that we are at a point where we can stop working to achieve parity (Hill et al. 2010, Plotnick et al. 2014, Whatley & Beck 2016).

The causes of this disparity are subtle, difficult to understand, and varied. They include discrimination, sexual harassment, implicit bias, and structural barriers to participation (Shen 2013, Stigall 2017, Rosen 2017). The brilliant work done by paleontologists who happen to be women demonstrates how much paleontology stands to gain by combating the factors that exclude many of us from full participation in the field. In recent years, SVP’s Executive Committee has attempted to address some of these issues by adopting a double-blind review process for abstracts, introducing a Code of Conduct for Annual Meetings, and supporting Women in Paleontology (WSVP) events at Annual Meetings. Last year’s WSVP event, inspired by the uplifting atmosphere of the 2016 PaleoFest at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, celebrated the achievements of women in vertebrate paleontology and shared data on gender demographics in SVP through the years.

This year, the WSVP Luncheon will take place on Wednesday, August 23 from 12:30-1:30 PM in Macleod Hall D of the Calgary TELUS Convention Center, and it will feature two presentations. The first, by Darren Tanke of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, is titled “Three early heroines of Albertan vertebrate paleontology,” and continues last year’s theme of celebrating women in paleontology. The second presentation is a webinar conducted by Heather Metcalf, PhD., Director of Research and Analysis for American Women in Science (AWIS). Dr. Metcalf will be discussing evidence-based strategies to promote retention of women in science throughout their careers. A short time for questions, discussion, and networking will follow. And, just like last year, ALL meeting attendees are welcome to join us for this event!

To make this event more accessible to meeting attendees, we are raising money for catering at the luncheon, which must be provided by the Calgary TELUS Convention Center. If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donation to support the WSVP Luncheon, please follow these steps:

  • Go to https://vertpaleo.org/SpecialPages/Donate.aspx

  • Fill out the “Submit a New Donation” form

  • Select the “Legacy League Fund

  • Enter amount of donation, which will trigger a pop-up window

  • In the “Donated in Honor of” pop-up window, enter “Women in Paleo Luncheon in Calgary

  • You will be e-mailed a receipt of your tax-deductible donation

Please also download the image from this blog post and share it on social media to encourage others to support this event. Thank you!


Catherine M. Early,
ReBecca Hunt-Foster,
and Ashley C. Morhardt,
WSVP 2017 co-organizers


*In this blog post, we define “women” as people who identify as women, not just those born biologically female. This is a necessary distinction to make when discussing data on membership and authorship because these are often derived from coding names for gender, which likely reflect gender identity rather than biological sex. However, we note that this distinction also aligns with the SVP Code of Conduct’s requirement that meeting attendees “behave in a courteous, collegial, and respectful fashion to each other.”


Author’s Note

We would like to point out that many other underrepresented groups such as racial minorities or people with disabilities face similarly daunting barriers to participation in paleontology. To learn more about how we can increase equality and diversity in our field in a broader, more intersectional sense, please attend the FREE workshop called “Solutions for Supporting a Diverse SVP Membership” on Tuesday, August 22nd from 10 AM-4 PM.



The current organizers are indebted to the organizers of previous years’ WSVP events for setting the precedent for such a forum for discussion existing at SVP Annual Meetings. We thank the SVP Executive Committee for supporting WSVP organizers and for covering the costs of room and equipment use at last year’s and this year’s WSVP event. We also thank Kay Behrensmeyer, Bob and Nancy Engelhardt-Moore, Ashley Morhardt, and David Polly for their donations to support this year’s event.



Arbour VM. 2016. Your project is good enough for a talk. Post on Pseudocephalus blog. https://pseudoplocephalus.com/2016/11/02/your-project-is-good-enough-for-a-talk/.

Ceci SJ, Ginther DK, Kahn S, Williams WM. 2014. Women in academic science: a changing landscape. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 15(3): 75-141.

Hill CH, Corbett C, St Rose A. 2010. Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Research report by the American Association of University Women.

Huyer S. 2015. Is the gender gap narrowing in science and engineering? UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030. 85-103.

Miller DI, Wai J. 2015. The bachelor’s to Ph.D. STEM pipeline no longer leaks more women than men: a 30-year analysis. Frontiers in Psychology 6: 1-10.

Plotnick R, Stigall AL, Stefanescu I. 2014. Evolution of paleontology: long-term gender trends in an earth science discipline. GSA Today 24(11): 44-45.

Rosen J. 2017. Data illuminate a mountain of molehills facing women scientists. Eos 98.

Shen H. 2013. Inequality quantified: mind the gender gap. Nature 495: 22-24.

Stigall AL. 2013. Women in paleontology: where are they? Priscum: Newsletter of the Paleontological Society 20(1): 1-3.

Stigall AL. 2017. Alumni symposium: women in geology. Post on Stigall Lab blog. http://www.alyciastigall.org/2017/04/alumni-symposium-women-in-geology/

Whatley R, Beck A. A history of paleontology from Anning to Zanno and beyond. Invited presentation at PaleoFest 2016 and WSVP 2016.

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