Young Women of Geoscience (YWOG)


“Women more naturally work together and collaborate” – Meet Lisanne Braat, PhD candidate

What is your role or function at Utrecht University?

I just finished my PhD at the university, I just handed in my PhD thesis. It is about the effect of mud on estuary morphology.

What made you decide to become a scientist?

I didn’t know for a long time that I wanted to be a scientist. After finishing high school, it was a logical choice to continue studying at university level. I really liked earth sciences. I always looked for fossils with my dad and I really liked spectacular landscapes like volcanoes. Later in the study I realised that I preferred to study water phenomena and sediment transport. Then, because I enjoyed my Master’s thesis so much, the next logical step was to continue doing research and undertaking a PhD because I really liked doing research. It was only during my thesis however, that I decided I really wanted to become a scientist.

Are there many women in your field of study?

I feel that at PhD level it is almost 50/50 but I notice that at higher positions that there are not a lot of women, it is really unequal, there is only one female professor in our department. At other universities I notice there are zero or only a few female professors.

Do you think life after you finish a PhD and the next phase of your career is different based on your gender?

I see that it is more unequal after PhDs, the culture at university is very male dominated so you have to conform to male standards and what it is thought at the university now that are important characteristics. Confidence and competitiveness are seen as very important characteristics which I don’t think are necessarily important to be a good scientist.

What typically female characteristics/strengths are important to recognize in the university workplace?

It is of course very generalized to assume that all women would have certain characteristics and men would not, but, I think women more naturally work together which I think is important in science and academia. This could lead to more collaboration between universities ad between colleagues. A scientist is now often considered to be a very solitary profession, working on your own and I think that scares a lot of women to pursue this as a future career.

What changes would need to occur for the scientific community to be a less male-dominated culture?

I think it would change automatically if there were more females in higher positions, then other characteristics would be valued more. It is important to see that it is possible to achieve these positions. I never really had role models, but I know it is important for other people.

Do you think students respond differently to teaching assistants/teachers based on their gender?

I always attributed it to looking young rather than my gender, that I was treated differently, but I always felt taken less seriously.

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