Attracting the Younger Generation
By Lillian Comegys, Secretary
Over the past several months that I have been on the GSH Board of Directors, a recurring topic has emerged in our monthly meetings: how can the GSH attract the younger generation of geophysicists to participate in the society? As the youngest member of the board I also have contemplated that question: what do my contemporaries want from a professional society membership? What do they need?
I created a short survey asking these very questions and sent it to several young geophysicists. A third of the respondents are not members of the GSH, and they all gave the same explanation, “I am a member of other societies and don’t have enough time”. From those that are members, almost everyone admitted to rarely participating in GSH events. There are several articles on the internet concerning millennials and professional organizations with much more intensive survey research. One article mentions that 58% of young professionals are members of a networking organization; however, the majority of those prefer those led by their peer group. What does this mean for the GSH? In order to attract the younger generation of geoscientists, we need to first enlist the ones already members of the GSH to become more active participants and take on roles of responsibility within the society.
The majority of my survey respondents reported they were members of these types of professional societies for continuing education opportunities. I believe that this is reflected in the overall success of the webinars. That being said, I think the importance of networking events should not be overlooked. Icebreakers, sporting clays and golf tournaments are a way to connect our community to serve in both good times and bad. These opportunities need to be promoted not only with the advertisements on the GSH website and monthly journal, but also from within each member’s company. If you are a manager or a mentor, encourage your younger employees to attend the technical luncheons, breakfasts, or Special Interest Group presentations. Make sure they are informed of the online material on the GSH or SEG website, or the literature available at the Geoscience Center here in Houston. I have had the extreme good fortune to be surrounded by superiors that push me towards involvement in the GSH and SEG.
In all honesty, several of the people that took the quiz skipped all but the first question (Are you a member of the GSH?). What does this say about my generation of geophysicists? That we don’t have the time? Or that we simply don’t care? This is the challenge that we are facing: as a society, we need to create a passion for geophysics and the geophysical community that extends beyond the normal working hours. I challenge every person reading this to think on this topic and provide feedback. How do we prove to the younger geoscientist community that the GSH is relevant to their career paths?