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NYU Abu Dhabi scientists reveal empowering surge of women in Gulf coral reef research

NYU Abu Dhabi scientists reveal empowering surge of women in Gulf coral reef research
17 Jan 2024 20:40


In an eye-opening study entitled “The growing role of women in coral reef research in the Gulf Cooperation Council,” scientists from NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) revealed a substantial increase in female authorship within coral reef research across Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The team’s findings shed light on the “prevalence and perspectives of women” engaged in coral reef studies across the GCC's six member states, across the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, as well as the Red Sea.

Victory for GCC and Feminism

The mixed-method study, implemented by Emirati co-authors and Kawader research fellows at NYUAD Amal Al-Gergawi and Maryam Al-Memari as well as Grace Vaughan and John A. Burt, declared a six-fold surge in female-inclusive papers over 30 years. This is a noteworthy achievement for the GCC, especially since the first female author’s contribution to GCC reef-related literature was not long ago but in 1985. Moreover, 53% of the study’s 852 reviewed relevant publications were exclusively authored by male researchers.

Between the nineties and early 2010s a marginal increase was recorded in terms of women’s contribution to research. The spike, however, was in 2014 with their contributions since then constituting 64% of all female-inclusive papers. 

Role of Women Throughout History

In a revealing exploration of the historical contributions of women to reef science in the region, interviews with female researchers unveiled a behind-the-scenes role for women over the past few decades.

A “Khaleeji scientist” shared her perspective saying: “I think that when you really get into the meetings the people that were making the decisions were typically men, but the scientists themselves right from the very start right from 2001 were women, and a GCC country, used to have their environment and labs way out in the middle of nowhere. They're these old buildings and there were all women running them.” The speaker expressed amazement at this early display of female leadership, acknowledging that, during that era, women were not consistently at the forefront.

Another answer stood out implying incredible enthusiasm and framing the present as a pivotal moment for women in the field: "I don't know actually what the history is here, but I don't think we have a history like Romans. We're starting the history now; we're writing the history."

As the UAE and other GCC member states are transitioning to “knowledge-based green economies,” integrating and retaining women in regional reef knowledge production is becoming increasingly crucial for holistic conservation efforts.

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