By Dr. Siddhi Joshi, coastal geoscientist and oceanographer
As a coastal marine scientist and a global LGBTI rights activist, I wanted to write a blog post which explored an LGBTI woman’s experience in coastal geosciences and engineering. My main motivation is to engage in dialogue over the aspects that haunted me throughout the early stages of my education- the loneliness, the intersectionality as well as the positive considerations made by the community and steps for the future.
In many ways studying coastal science has been an empowering experience for me as a woman seeking an active role in pursuing a career which is so interconnected with nature. The inspiration of nature and the natural world lead me to be able to grow and accept who I am and my sexuality as a lesbian. In my experience many coastal scientists as a whole tend to be very much accepting of people from many walks of life- including to those belonging to diverse sexual orientations and those defying the gender norms. A sense of “Coastal Pride” has always been there since the early days of my undergraduate years. From coming out whilst happy in a same-sex relationship to watching my fellow PhD student discovering her gender identity whilst transitioning. There are many positive, supportive and accepting colleagues of all ages and beliefs.
On the other hand this has sometimes posed unusual challenges in meeting the same glass ceiling encountered by many women due to gender inequality. I was viewed as a non-traditional student and this was like a shadow which followed me throughout my education. My experience of discrimination became even more complex as issues such as homophobia, race and intersectionality came into play. As a woman of colour, during my early years I found myself kind of caught at the centre of a web of oppression, being a minority within a minority. Isolation and mental health issues stemmed from lack of acceptance. With a dearth of minority role models in the marine sciences, there is a ever greater need to form constituencies. I found this was the solution to my problems, to be in an environment which was supportive, accepting and fostered diversity. Social support groups such as participation in prides and forming LGBTI support networks within the geosciences science comminity are a key factor in facing and overcoming the complex challenges. Although the landscape and opportunities are evolving, it is important that universities and institutions in the geosciences and engineering sectors offer fair and equal opportunities, pay, promotions and ensure equality issues are placed at the forefront of a competitive scientific environment.
About the Author
Dr. Siddhi Joshi is a coastal geoscientist and oceanographer with over 10 years of experience in marine biogeosciences including sediment dynamics, hydrodynamic modelling, seabed classification and habitat mapping. She has recently completed my PhD on the sediment mobility of maerl habitats in Galway Bay and is a regular volunteer for Amnesty International and South Asian LGBTI rights globally.