From Larvikites to Ocean Islands: Celebrating Else-Ragnhild Neumann and Women in Geosciences

On 7th of December CEED celebrated the 80th birthday of the first female professor in Geosciences in Norway: Else-Ragnhild Neumann. She became a Full Professor in 1981, the year the world was revolutionised by the first IBM personal computer (PC). Was it the dawn of a new era?

From the prize ceremony the 7. Dec. 2018 at DNVA, Oslo. From left: Anja Røyne, Brit-Lisa Skjelkvåle, Grace Shepard, Else-Ragnhild Neumann, G. Shepard and Carmen Gaina.

From the prize ceremony the 7. Dec. 2018 at DNVA, Oslo. From left: Anja Røyne, Brit-Lisa Skjelkvåle, Grace Shepard, Else-Ragnhild Neumann, G. Shepard and Carmen Gaina.

The information about when the first woman completed a doctoral degree in Geosciences in Norway was difficult to find, but it was 1903 when the first woman defended a doctoral thesis in Kristiania (now Oslo), and 1912 when the University of Oslo appointed the first female professor, the zoologist Kristine Bonnevie. Another 69 years passed until a female geoscientist was found qualified to become a Professor!

The statistics based on data for the last six years show that in 2018 women represent 25% from the number of full professors in Norwegian Universities. The Department of Geosciences at University of Oslo has 7 female full professors, out of the total of 29 professors, confirming the national ratio (1/4) published earlier this year.

Although an improvement since 1981, talented young women who choose to pursue an academic career still encounter more obstacles than their male peers. A society like the one built in Norway where children care is supposed to be equally shared by both parents is a big step forward. Despite this, the society, families, colleagues expect a woman to first fulfil her tasks as a mother and as a partner, and only after that to think about a (time) demanding academic career.

Because an academic career means uncertainty, unorthodox working hours, days, weeks and even months away from home, moving your family around the world, and maybe having your mind and attention hooked on strange, abstract problems. Last year, when I have first proposed the idea of an award recognising early career female geoscientists, I have received the reply: “Do you really think that there are so many candidates for that award”?

Yet, the Else-Ragnhild Neumann award international committee identified two amazing young and talented women who deserve the prize for contributing in a significant way to the field of Geosciences during their PhD and postdoctoral studies. They are both working now with the University of Oslo. Dr. Anja Røyne is a Norwegian physicist turned into a geoscientist, has three children, received a PhD in 2011, and published 25 papers. Her work advanced our understanding of mineral growth in porous media, fluid and hydration, and crystal growth by using original experimental approaches and new devices. The award is shared with Dr. Grace E. Shephard, an Australian scientist who moved to Norway immediately after completing her doctoral studies in 2014. Dr. Shepard is commended for her growing scientific production that provides fundamental contribution on understanding the link between shallow surface process and deep mantle dynamics. A considerable amount of both awardees scientific work was developed in Norwegian centers of excellence (in Physics of Geological Processes-PGP, and the Center for Earth Evolution and Dynamics-CEED, respectively).

Being recognized early in your career can change many things. It feels good to know that what one does from passion and dedication is helpful and important. It opens doors, at least this how the history, mainly written by our male colleagues, goes.  And maybe the (academic) world can suddenly become a more accessible arena, and a career that leads to a professorship may turn more often into reality. For women too.

Happy Birthday Else-Ragnhild!

Congratulations Anja and Grace!


Carmen Gaina

Director of CEED


The award on web: The Else-Ragnhild Neumann Award for Women in Geosciences

By Carmen Gaina
Published Dec. 10, 2018 11:22 AM - Last modified Dec. 10, 2018 11:22 AM
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