Geography and Earth Sciences, my own research field, has a strong tradition as a male-dominated arena. The particularly masculine construction of the ‘physical challenge' element of fieldwork in physical geography and geology lies at the core of the subject (Madge & Bee, 1999). I still encounter some in the discipline who believe that women are not suited to, and should not be allowed to do, fieldwork-thankfully not within my own department. These notions are gradually disappearing; in many cases the participation of women in Earth Sciences research is viewed as a ‘good thing', but many are unsure how to achieve the goals of widening participation.
In the UK at present there appears to be a ‘double-hooped' discriminatory barrier to obtaining research funding. I am a female lecturer and researcher in a ‘new' UK university. A disproportionate amount of funding in the UK is currently directed towards relatively few ‘older' more established universities - these are the environments where, according to Gavaghan (1997), women in senior positions are the least well-represented. However, women in older UK universities stand a better chance of obtaining research money. Women are better-represented in the workforce in newer universities (Madge & Bee, 1999); however, research funding is rarely directed at these institutions.
So when being assessed by a review panel, I have a duet of potential obstacles against me before the quality of my research proposal has begun to be assessed. Although I am at great pains to point out that I rarely have to think about my gender within the department in which I work (a primary motivating force for me staying in my current post), I am frequently reminded that many parts of the academic world are still similar to the senior faculty meetings reported by Howard Georgi, former chairman of the physics department at Harvard, in Gavaghan's 1997 article:
"I was appalled by the old-boys-club atmosphere that oozed from these gatherings and I began to feel that an invasion of dragons was needed to shake up the country club."
It is difficult to imagine that women are on an equal footing with men when applying for research funding while these types of scenes are still a part of academia. I am sure that this situation is not peculiar to women and can equally well be applied to other so-called ‘minority' groups; for example, Wickware (1997) remarked that African Americans, Hispanics and African Indians tend not even to begin science studies.