As a token of its commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women, the WMO-IOC Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) kicked off its fifth session with a Women’s Marine Leadership Workshop. Twenty-four female marine meteorologists and oceanographers from 22 countries joined the two-day event which took place at the WMO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on 21 and 22 October 2017. The majority participated in the subsequent Marine Technical Conference and JCOMM-5, thus gaining invaluable hands-on experience in participating in international cooperation meetings.
“We need to bring in more women in governance and management,” said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova. “Women bring diverse ideas, knowledge and expertise which make for better decision making, more equitable distribution of resources, and better performance,” she added. Through the workshop, WMO sought to build a cohort of female leaders in the marine and oceanographic community, who would join the Commission's structures and contribute to its scientific work.
“I am now realizing that being a woman leader is an amazing opportunity in life,” exclaimed Anni Arumsari Fitriany, a workshop participant from Indonesia.
The curriculum was geared towards strengthening the soft skills of mid-career marine meteorologists and oceanographers from WMO and IOC Member states, with a focus on communications, strategic influence, conflict management, negotiations and consensus-building. The method involved interactive exercises and situation scenarios. Individual coaching sessions were also offered at which participants obtained personalized feedback, discussed career goals, and devised action strategies.
“I got to see my stronger and weaker points, and my style of leadership in relation to my own culture,” noted Sandra van Dijke-Langezaal from the Netherlands. “I go home with lots of new self-insights, wisdom and inspiration to incorporate in my day-to-day business,” she added. Chantale Bijoux from the Seychelles echoed her feelings. She particularly appreciated the practical exercises which were “an eye-opener” for her. Equipping participants with a set of tools on how to effectively lead in an authentic way was among the most valuable aspects of the training, according to Elke Louw, the participant from New Zealand.
The Women’s Marine Leadership Workshop laid the foundations of a network of female marine meteorologists and oceanographers. “Even though the world is covered 70% by water, the number of women involved in marine is just a mere drop,” said Elke Louw. “We really need to advocate and support each other more.” The participants were astonished by the huge similarities encountered in terms of the career and day-to-day issues faced by women in the workplace, regardless of geographical location and culture.
The event concluded with an informal discussion at which Nadia Pinardi, Co-President of JCOMM, and workshop participants spoke about their personal experience, success, challenges and lessons learned throughout their careers and their paths into leadership. Striking a balance between developing one’s technical competencies and actively participating in international scientific cooperation was Professor Pinardi’s key to success and piece of advice to female professionals.