Making the weather more accessible

Women in weather

on March 25, 2015

I finished work at 8am this morning so didn’t want to do anything too strenuous this afternoon, but I did attend a brilliant webinar run by Northrop Grumman about “Women in Weather”. The hangout/webinar was organised after the National Science Foundation found out that only 14% of the 14,000 professionals employed in atmospheric sciences were women.

In attendance were:

· Courtney Draggon, Director, International Activities Office, National Weather Service
· Ginger Zee, Chief Meteorologist, ABC News
· Maria LaRosa, Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
· Laura Delgado López – Project Manager, Secure World Foundation
· Rebecca Miller, Operations Meteorologist, Southwest Airlines
· Robyn Heffernan, Incident Meteorologist, National Weather Service
· Jenny Hibbert, Operations Meteorologist, Fugro GEOS

women in weather

One of the key points that came up, was the need to remove the “weather girl” stigma. Over the years, the general public seem to have forgotten that scientists are behind the weather forecast, and as Rebecca Miller said “We are not looked at as scientists, we’re looked at as paper dolls”. There is a need to increase the understanding of what meteorology is and the amount of work that goes into the daily weather forecasts. Additionally, Ginger Zee added “understanding of what a meteorologist is is our biggest problem.” She also mentioned that most meteorologists she knows are asked whether they’re on TV when they say what they do, and this is something I have frequently been asked.

Understandably, as it was an all female panel the question of female meteorologists being treated differently to male meteorologists came up, and it did become apparent that there is a difference, especially due to that “weather girl” stigma. Rebecca Miller said that “women on tv are treated differently to men, which makes it hard to get the message across to the public.” However, Jenny Hibbert, who works in the oil and gas industry, said that she “hadn’t run into much sexism” and that it was the “best time to be a woman in the science workplace.” Encouragingly male meteorologists and followers took to twitter saying that there shouldn’t be a difference and that things need to change, as illustrated by the tweet below.

man tweet

The panel also spoke about education and Ginger Zee mentioned that she was lucky enough to go storm chasing in the Great Plains as part of her college course (something I’m very jealous of) and that you learn far more in the field then you do in a text book. The panel were also asked about any unique aspects of their work they enjoyed, and for me, the most interesting answer was from Robyn Heffernan who spoke about her work as an Incident Meteorologist for the NWS. She can spend a number of weeks away from her family and be based in very dangerous situations close to forest fires, and then forecasts how the fires are likely to develop so that they can be managed efficiently. Additionally she mentioned that the NWS IMETs have the opportunity to do exchanges between America and Australia and that they learn a lot from these experiences, again highlighting how important it is to get out into the field.

When asked what valuable pieces of advice they had received they key topics were not being afraid to ask for help, talk to people and network, and don’t worry about what people thing of you as shown below!


I’ve only covered a few of the topics discussed today, so if you would like to watch the Women in Weather webinar click here or watch the video below and to view other peoples comments on the webinar go to #ExtremeWx on Twitter!

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