Women in Meteorology

At international, national and local levels, there is a drive to improve access for women to technology, information, science education and technical training and to strengthen the position of women scientists and technologists. Ensuring that women have equal access to science education and technology is an essential catalyst to ensure that the developers and users of weather, water and climate services provided by WMO and its Members serve the global community – men, women, boys, girls. This commitment strengthens the position of women as scientists, technologists and users of weather, water and climate services and fosters increased participation of women in weather and climate decision and policy-making.

The WMO Conference on the Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services (Conference Report) will offer a special side-event on empowering women – who represent less than one-third of professionals in meteorology and hydrology – to participate in the dynamic career opportunities available nationally and internationally in weather, climate and water sciences and policy.

Young girls are often discouraged to pursue science as a career and intimidated by perceived competition with males at every level of the educational and working spectrum of the scientific world. Women professionals can play a large role in encouraging young girls and women in pursuing an education in science, particularly meteorology and hydrology.

Can women be successful in science? The overwhelmingly positive experiences from the women interviewed below proves that they can. These women overcame obstacles to be the “first” women in many areas of their careers and to pave a way for others to follow.

The WMO Youth Corner also contains direct links to youth websites and materials created by Members. The two final rticles focus on efforts by WMO and its partners to fill the aps in observation systems in the polar regions to respond togrowing scientific understanding of the critical role these egions play in the global weather and climate system. A career in meteorology and hydrology can open the world to you.

 Sue Barrell, Australia

Sue Barrell loved math and science when she was in school. When she started thinking about her career choices, ”Meteorology seemed to combine all the things I valued – and they happened to advertised for trainee meteorologists just at the right time!” She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the Australian National University, a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), a Graduate Diploma in Meteorology from the Bureau of Meteorology and to become a Graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Dr Barrell is now the Vice-President of the WMO Commission for Basic Systems and Chair of the Inter-commission Coordination Group of the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS). She served on the Australian Space Industry Innovation Council and is Australia’s Principal Delegate to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). She is a member of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Radiocommunications Consultative Committee and sits on the Steering Committee of the Australian National Telescope Facility. Over the years, she has served as acting Deputy Director, Information Systems and Services, Chief Information Officer and as Assistant Director, Observations and Engineering, at the Bureau of Meteorology of Australia. Despite her many responsibilities, she considers herself “very lucky to have worked doing the things I loved doing and with the challenge of learning something new every day.”

Her biggest challenge has been “getting the right balance between work and my home life. But my family is usually good at reminding me of this!” Apart from her family, she regards winning a tiny slice of the IPCC’s Nobel Peace prize and being elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2013 as her greatest achievements. In addition, “Becoming the first female meteorologist to win a senior executive role in the Bureau has helped me inspire others along the way.”

Dr Barrell recommends a career in meteorology to young women as it offers many opportunities. “It can move you from different roles within the organization and can take you around the world.” 

Barbara Tapia, Chile

When living close to the border between the United States of America and Canada, Barbara Tapia experienced extreme weather conditions for the first time. Marked by the experience, Ms Tapia decided to embark on a career in meteorology, “I thought that I would be able to better understand the dynamics of the atmospheric conditions that I had experienced. It was the best decision!” She holds a Bachelor Degree in Meteorology and a Masters Degree in Management and Public Policy.

Ms Tapia, a Senior Meteorologist at the Chilean Meteorological Service, is currently stationed at the Pacific Regional Meteorological Centre on Easter Island. In 2014, she was elected Vice-President of the WMO Commission of Climatology (CCl). During her career, she led the Working Group on Climate Services for South America, coordinated the implementation processes of two WMO Regional Climate Centres in the South America region and carried out other climate related activities. In 2002, Ms. Tapia spent a year working for the WMO World Climate Programme.

Her work on climate issues has earned her recognition at the regional and international levels, she is very proud to be the first female representative from South America elected as Vice-President of CCl.

Ms Tapia claims that success came from perseverance and always wanting to accomplish “something more” than others. But it was not always easy. “Unfortunately, we women still need to go the extra mile to prove our abilities,” observed Ms Tapia. “I would recommend that young women scientists remain open-minded, because there are several different areas in which to develop one’s career in the meteorological field.”

 Sri Woro Budiati - Harijono, Indonesia

Dr Ir. Sri Woro B. Harijono was the first woman Director General of the Agency for Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics of Indonesia (BMKG). From 2010 to 2014, she was also the President of WMO Regional Association V (South West Pacific). Today, Dr Harijono is an advisor to the Minister of Transportation of the Republic of Indonesia on Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics. “There is nothing that can’t be achieved, it is just a matter of deciding if you want to do it or not,” asserts Dr Harijono.

Having obtained a doctoral degree in atmospheric sciences from the Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB), Dr Harijono started her career as a Coordinator of the Weather Modification Program at the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology in 1985. “My responsibility required me to gain in depth understanding of cloud microphysics processes, which I thought very unique, yet fascinating.” She remained in that post until 1999 when she became Deputy of the Research and Technology Program of the Ministry of Research and Technology. She left that position to become Deputy of Data from 2004 to 2005 in the agency that would be renamed BMKG.

She believes her greatest accomplishment was the development of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System and the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre. But BKMG also recognizes the important contributions she made to the creation of the Weather and Climate Warning Centre and the Division for Research and Development. She is proudest of her son and daughter, both are medical doctors.

To young women embarking a scientific career she recommends to “be a lifelong learner“ but also “to balance your private life and your work.” 

 Nadia Pinardi, Italy

Professor Nadia Pinardi is passionate about science and its usefulness for society, so her decision to have a career in physics and mathematics was logical. “I like to understand the laws of nature. Science is like artistic inspiration, providing a new vision of nature.”

Today, Prof. Pinardi holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University and is an associate Professor of Oceanography at Bologna University. She directs the Operational Oceanography Group of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia and is co-president of the Joint Committee for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of WMO/IOC-UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Prof. Pinardi is a member of both the European Environment Agency Scientific Advisory Committee and the European Research Council for Earth Sciences, and was awarded the European Geophysical Union Fridtjof Nansen Medal for Oceanography in 2007 and the Roger Revelle Unesco Medal in 2008.

Prof. Pinardi claims the key to success is “hard work because even geniuses have to work hard. And luck because I was lucky to find people who cared about my education and gave me a research topic so visionary that I built an entire career on it.”

She is proudest “to have started the field of ocean forecasting, down to the operational service design and implementation.” Though she claims that to be her greatest achievement, she insists that her biggest challenge was “to reconcile private and working life – bringing-up a family and having a career in scientific research.” Twisting the old saying to her personal experience she notes that, “Behind a great woman, there is always a caring man!”

Her recommendation for young women starting a career in Applied Physics is “to look for people and institutions that have the highest level of scientific achievements and that have a mission.”

 Federica Rossi, Italy

“If you do what you like it will be more interesting, and you will reach better results,” says Federica Rossi to young female scientists. She followed her own advice. Fascinated by research, Federica earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Science at the University of Bologna then dedicated her career to agriculture meteorology, a field she knew would have a big impact on people’s lives.

“Being a researcher is a hard job, but you need to be a 360° person and not only a scientist,” says Ms Rossi. The various areas in which she is active certainly prove that:

  • Senior Researcher at the Italian National Research Council, Institute of Biometeorology (IBIMET), leading the working team on Micrometeorology, Ecophysiology and Productivity of Natural and Agricultural Systems;

  • Representative of Italy in the International Society Horticultural Science;

  • Representatitve of Italy on the Management Committee of the Cost Action 734 “Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on European Agriculture” and of the Cost Action 18 “Meteorological Applications in Agriculture” (COST is one of the longest-running European frameworks supporting cooperation among scientists and researchers across Europe);

  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Italian Journal of Agrometeorology; 

  • Web Editor and founding Member of the International Society of Agrometeorology;

  • Vice-Director of the Fabbrica del Futuro, a Project of the Italian Ministry of Education and Research to improve the competitiveness of the Italian industry and of products branded “Made in Italy” within the global context; and

  • Vice-President of WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) since 2010.

The hardest challenge for a researcher like her is “the huge amount of time to be spent in finding money” she says. However, she believes that success takes dedication and bit of fantasy. She encourages young people to “dedicate time to others and to support the people working with you.” She urges them to keep a positive attitude and to work in teams. “Do not be afraid to fight for your ideas, but respect the ideas of others.”

 Vida Auguliene, Lithuania

“Meteorology is a rare profession – romantic and independent of political influence – which allows consistent and interesting work,” claims Vida Auguliene. As Director of the Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service (LHS), Permanent Representative of Lithuania to WMO since 2006 and Vice-President of WMO Regional Association VI (Europe) since 2011, she is well placed to strongly recommend her career choice to young women.

Ms Auguliene did her diploma studies at Vilnius University before holding various positions at the predecessor to the present-day LHS. In 1994, she became the Chief Specialist for Environmental Monitoring at the Environmental Protection Agency of the Ministry of Environment. She left that post in 2004 to become the Deputy Director of LHS. Ms Auguliene represents Lithuania at EUMETSAT (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), ECMWF (European Center for Medium range Weather Forecasting) and HIRLAM (High Resolution Limited Area Model). She has chaired the EUMETSAT Advisory Committee of Cooperating States since 2008. Over her career, she published several papers on ambient air quality as well as on meteorological issues, and coordinated various international and national projects and programmes.

She perceives her greatest achievements to be her contribution to the modernization of Lithuanian ydrometeorological infrastructure and services. Prior to modernization in 2005, only 43% of survey respondents thought weather forecasts were important. In 2009, after some remarkable improvements, the number increased to 70%, and in 2012 to 86%.

“If you love what you are doing, you will be successful,” says Ms Auguliene. “Real leaders are shaped to overcome challenges, control stress, sweat and practice.”

 Agnes Kijazi, Tanzania

Dr Agnes Kijazi rose from the lowest ranks of National Meteorological Service in the United Republic of Tanzania, which she joined in 1987 as a meteorological assistant, to be the Director General. She is the first woman in the East African Region to hold such a post and to be elected to the WMO Executive Council.

A desire to further help her country to better cope with extreme weather events motivated Ms Kijazi to join the undergraduate program in Meteorology at the University of Nairobi in 1996. She completed her Bachelor of Science in 2000, and went on to do a Master’s in Environmental Science at the University of Cape Town in 2004. She earned her Doctorate in Meteorology at the University of Cape Town in 2008.

Her career has brought her personal satisfaction, however, Dr Kijazi is most gratified to have paved a way for young women in science. “Unfortunately, women are discouraged from choosing scientific studies in Africa. They should not be. Instead, they should look at the women hat have succeeded in these fields and know they can make it too,” urged Dr. Kijazi.

The key to success “is not only hard work, but also support from family and relatives” stated Dr. Kijazi who was married when she started her studies. “It turned out to be very important,” she said smiling.

 Laura Furgione, United States of America

“I grew up on a five-generation farm in Missouri, so I understood the importance of accurate weather information very early,” explains Laura Furgione. “Weather impacts everyone and everything. There is no other field that has such a broad and diverse mission.”

Ms Furgione obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Missouri- Columbia and a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of Alaska-Southeast. “I found my options unlimited, there are so many geographical choices of employment. If you don’t restrict yourselves geographically, the opportunities are endless.”

Since 2010, Ms Furgione has been the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Weather Services and the Deputy Director of the National Weather Service (NWS), both part of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role, she is responsible for the day-to-day civilian weather operations for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas. She was the proud recipient of two NOAA Administrator’s Awards in 2011 – one for NOAA’s Arctic Vision and Strategy and another for developing NOAA’s Strategy Execution and Evaluation system. Ms Furgione was designated as the United States Permanent Representative to the WMO in March 2013.

Being passionate and curious about what one does is the key to success for Laura Furgione. “I always ask a lot of questions and get involved in as many activities as possible.”

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