Celebrating International Day of the Girl with Ladies of Landsat
This piece was written by Morgan Crowley, Flávia de Souza Mendes, Kate Fickas and Meghan Halabisky. The authors are earth observation scientists and are working together to make the field of remote sensing more inclusive for women and underrepresented minorities through the Ladies of Landsat organization.
Ladies of Landsat is a Twitter-based organization that got its start officially in 2018. Led by a group of women hoping to make the field of remote sensing and earth observation more equitable and inclusive for underrepresented scientists, we have grown our following to over 7,700 members since we first began! The field of remote sensing has been dominated by the voices of those who have historically held positions of power, and so we are working from multiple directions to achieve our broader mission to make an impact on the field. First, we work bottom-up to amplify the representation of women and other underrepresented scientists in earth observation science. Second, we lead top-down calls for action from leaders in power and our active allies who have the capacity to change the status quo when it comes to diversity, equity, justice and inclusion (DEJI) in remote sensing. Some of our regular efforts include a weekly Twitter series highlighting research led by women in remote sensing, in-person and virtual networking events, conference symposiums and panel discussions, member highlight videos with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and more.
It’s an exciting time to be in the field of earth observation, as significant advances are being made every day toward increased gender representation. In the past, barriers to mentorship, data accessibility, education, outreach and collaboration limited women and other underrepresented scientists from using remote sensing and earth observations. However, these barriers continue to be broken down with the burst of free and open cyberinfrastructure, open science, and accessible communication. With a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive earth observation community comes more thoughtful, meaningful and innovative research and applications. Importantly, we also see an increase in representation of who is using the data along with this progress, which is essential for girls and women of all ages to see that folks from all backgrounds, careers and fields can be part of a broader earth observation community. While Ladies of Landsat members tend to span many domains of science (e.g., agriculture, forestry and climate), they often share a common goal to make a difference in the world using earth observations as a primary tool. We hope our efforts help inspire young girls to see themselves making an impact in the world, much like our Ladies of Landsat members, especially today on International Day of the Girl.
Unlike remote sensing, the broader field of agriculture is relatively gender-balanced in many countries around the world. However, women in agriculture continue to have less access to agriculture tools, such as fertilizers, knowledge and technology. Decreased access to vital agricultural resources has adverse outcomes for women in agriculture, such as reduced agricultural productivity. We see these gender disparities in the production of agricultural technologies relying on earth observations as well. Dr. Revi Sterling, director of USAID WomenConnect, explored a reduced uptake of AgTech apps in a recent Agrilinks blog, “Why Women Aren’t Using Your Ag App.'' Dr. Sterling found that while female farmers are the backbone of society, they are often not considered in the development of technical solutions, like mobile agricultural apps, and, therefore, do not use them in their agricultural monitoring solutions. Increasing inclusivity and diversity in agriculture earth observation isn’t just the right thing to do. Without all voices represented in research and the development of earth observation solutions, biases (whether conscious or not) can sneak in and result in an app or product that doesn’t meet the diverse needs of users and ultimately doesn’t get used. Ladies of Landsat may just be one group that is trying to work to change the tide, but it is up to all of us to ask the question, “Who is (and is not) in the room?”