As with many scientific disciplines, arachnology has long been male dominated. This gender bias has been changing gradually over the years, with some prominent early pioneers playing influential roles. Starting with Eliza Staveley in the mid-1800s, women pursued arachnology in a somewhat clandestine manner. The frequency with which women became involved in the study of arachnology increased considerably in the early and mid-1900s, although women were still expected to focus their responsibilities on family before any scientific pursuit, and only very rarely held any kind of academic position. Towards the latter part of the 1900s, there was a tremendous growth in certain areas of biology—notably behavioural ecology and biological control, both fields in which spiders are extremely amenable to study. With this growth came a new generation of independent women arachnologists. As the presence of women has grown in arachnology, so too has their ability to serve as mentors and role models to a younger generation of students from identities underrepresented in arachnology. Indeed, recent years have seen the student composition of meeting presenters reach close to a balanced gender composition. However, there is still considerable male gender bias in more senior positions in arachnology, including not only academic positions, but also first-authored papers, and oral presentations at meetings. Through examination of science and other STEM fields, we can better understand the barriers women face in academia. We conclude that, while we still have a way to go to achieve gender equity in arachnology, there are multiple avenues towards progress, including utilizing technology to better connect with students on a wider scale, improving our science communication, assessing hiring practices and tenure review, and increasing support, recognition and guidance given to early-career arachnologists.
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Vol. 19 • No. sp1