Bridging the gender gap in marine robotics & blue technology
We have sent robots to the moon, introduced them in factories to build our cars and appliances and are now increasingly adopting them in our own homes. While inside the domestic space robots have increasingly taken up functional chores (e.g. cleaning, entertainment), outside of our homes, their use remains limited, largely due to existing technical bottlenecks connected to the uncertainty and unstructured nature of external environments.
Marine robotics is increasingly experimenting with technology to drive innovation and progress towards a more sustainable economy. Set up as a field that can make a major contribution to understanding large societal problems, marine robotics still faces several challenges, among which a low number of women working in this field.
Ethical and gender-based issues represent a major concern for the robotics field overall. Here, discussions have heated up over the past few years around whether we can build a sustainable and inclusive robotics industry given this inequality. While bridging the gender gap might seem marginal in front of more ‘grounded’/ethical concerns of the sector, our ability to push the sector towards gender equality is essential for the future. This is even more so important in marine robotics, where the gender gap is a serious, yet underexplored matter.
‘Women in Blue’ is a blog conceived in the frame of BlueRoSES, an EU-funded project, that explores the potential of marine robotic technology to develop innovative services and products for the blue economy.
Why a blog about women in marine robotics in a project that deals with technological innovation?
First of all, because the gender gap in STEM remains a challenge with important implications for the future. As a matter of fact, the low number of women scientists working in this field has not only deep implications for how the robotics industry will shape up in the years to come. Above all, it represents a reflection of the way in which society is prepared to deal with complex societal challenges in matters such as equality, accessibility, diversity and inclusiveness. To this aim, different initiatives and campaigns around the world such as the Women in Robotics organisation, ‘Breaking the Cycle of Invisible Women in Robotics (WISE)’or ‘Black in Robotics’ have undertaken specific activities in this area. While these initiatives show that increasing attention is given to the work of women in robotics, the specific sub-sector of marine robotics and technology remains still under-explored.
Secondly, because we require a more integrated approach into studying the gender gap; one that uses statistics and numbers only as an entry point into a much more complex situation concerning equality, and not as a means to its end.
Taking up the challenge to analyze the complex dynamics behind gender inequality in marine robotics & technology, the current blog unfolds in three directions.
1. The first one is an interview section, where the stories of women scientists working in marine robotics are meant to inspire and provide role models for women/girls who would like to pursue such a career.
2. The second one is an archival section that deals with examples from visual culture (films, media, posters, educational materials and other similar material) which are shaping our perception of women’s role in marine robotics and more broadly in the robotics industry.
3. The third is a research section that discusses the implications of the latest investigations surrounding technology, media, ethics and innovation for a more egalitarian and sustainable future of marine robotics.
Our aim is to depart from the challenges of this specific sub-sector regarding marine robotics and to slowly zoom out on the implications that the gender gap has on the broader field of robotics. In doing so, we discuss visual material (archive section) and consider how latest social, economic and cultural studies contribute to shaping a more equalitarian industry. By pursuing in parallel these three different strands, we aim to provide a multi-perspective approach to tackling the gender gap in marine robotics. Only by doing so we can start understanding the deeper motivations underpinning this global challenge and provide some perspectives of how a deeper insight can guide us towards a future in which ethics, inclusiveness and responsibility form the core pillars of a sustainable marine robotics industry.
We hope the stories, visual imaginaries and research reflections we will share through our blog can inspire, empower and motivate our readers to contribute towards creating an industry that is designed for and speaks to everyone.