Women in Science: Laura Webb

international day of Women and Girls in Science

Since its declaration as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science back in 2015, February 11th has been the ideal moment to discuss and to promote actions for a full and equal access and participation of women and girls in science.

Continuing with our initiative from last year, we have talked to some of the women working in ClearFarm project, to know their experiences and share their views about science and gender equality.

Our first interviewed is Laura Webb, assistant professor at Wageningen University and Research (WUR). She is in charge of supervising two PhD students involved in WP2 and WP3. She was also involved in collecting data from the Dutch dairy farms.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Bretagne, France, by British parents. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and zoology from the university of Bristol, England, and a Master’s degree in applied animal behaviour and welfare from the university of Edinburgh, Scotland. I did my PhD at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, on finding feeding strategies that improve the welfare of veal calves. My professional goal is to find a practical measurement for life-long animal welfare.

How did you decide to become a scientist?

I was born and bred a scientist thanks to my parents and all their talks of evolution, cellular physiology, Easter Island, Steven Hawking and David Attenborough. I was always drawn to biology but ended up loving animal behaviour more.

Briefly, what excites you about your work?

I love that my job has a clear meaning: improve the lives of captive and domesticated animals. We use these animals for human benefits, and have the ethical duty to ensure they have a good life. I also love brainstorming, analysing data and writing.

Have you ever been “the only woman in the room”?

Yes.

What problems faced in your career do you think are related to the fact that you are a woman? 

I work at an organisation that promotes gender equality and balance, despite the difficulties in getting many women in higher positions. Next to this, I work in a field of research that attracts many women. I do not have the feeling that I personally faced many problems due to being a woman, but I hear from other women at the organisation who do encounter micro aggressions, for example: the youngest female in the group being automatically expected to make the meeting minutes, being ignored in discussions, being taken for the secretary or coffee person, assumptions that women prefer soft sciences etc.

Why is diversity important in science?

From what I understand, men and women do not ask the same questions, use different approaches to answer questions, and problem solve in different ways. This means that when the perspectives of women and men are equally valued, the science is stronger and more innovative.