On her return from the Second International Conference on Women in Meteorology held in Geneva last March, Ms Sharon S Y Lau, Senior Scientific Officer of the Hong Kong Observatory, observed that compared with meteorological agencies in many other countries or territories, the career development opportunities for female meteorological personnel in the Hong Kong Observatory are very good.
The Acting Director of the Hong Kong Observatory Mr K H Yeung said: "Sharon's observation is a testament to the Hong Kong Observatory's commitment to providing equal opportunities to male and female meteorological personnel in regard to recruitment, training, posting and promotion."
Into the International Limelight
Sharon has recently been invited to join the Management Group of the Technical Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This is the highest international position ever held by a female meteorologist from Hong Kong.
The Management Group of the WMO's Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology is responsible for promoting and co-ordinating development in aeronautical meteorology for the purpose of enhancing flight safety and efficiency. Sharon's achievements in wind shear detection and other aviation weather services at Hong Kong's airport drew the attention of the international aviation meteorological community, and resulted in her being invited to join the Management Group. Sharon is also the Chairman of the Working Group on Training, Environment and New Developments in Aeronautical Meteorology of WMO's Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology.
Mr K H Yeung pointed out that Sharon's achievements demonstrated that in the field of meteorology which was traditionally dominated by men, there was now much room for development in the international arena for women. The Hong Kong Observatory is proud of Sharon.
Even as far back as 1892, the Hong Kong Observatory could already boast of having female meteorological personnel on its staff. Ms Annie Doberck was hired in that year to visit ships in port to excerpt weather observations from their navigation log books. Because of the nature of her work, she was nicknamed 'Sampan Annie' or 'Typhoon Annie'.
It was in 1975 that the Observatory recruited female meteorological personnel again. Mrs Elaine Koo joined that year as the first female Scientific Officer. She was promoted to Assistant Director in 1993. Mrs Koo was also active in the international meteorological community before her retirement.
The first female Student Scientific Assistant was employed by the Hong Kong Observatory in 1977, and the first female Experimental Officer in 1981. Since then, the number of female meteorological personnel in the Observatory increased steadily.
Presently, the ratio of female to male meteorological personnel in the Hong Kong Observatory is about 1 to 6, close to the ratio of female to male students taking science subjects in tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.
Facing the Media, Reaching the Public
Ms Sandy M K Song, mother of two, is a Scientific Officer of the Hong Kong Observatory. When pregnant with her first child, Sandy continued to host weather programmes on television. This broke a taboo in show business where female programme hosts cease to work in that capacity during their pregnancy. Sandy has been voted Best Television Weather Presenter of the Observatory on several occasions.
At the invitation of the China Meteorological Administration, Sandy participated in the national television weather services meeting held in Beijing in 2002. She found that most television weather presenters in the Mainland were full time presenters. For Sandy, television weather presentation is just one of her many duties. She feels gratified that even so, her performance in TV weather presentation compares well with that of full time presenters in the Mainland.
Lifelong Learning, Stepping into Management
On leaving school in 1977, Ms. Christina S W Yeung joined the Hong Kong Observatory to become the first female Student Scientific Assistant. She was selected for training in meteorology in the United Kingdom in 1982, and promoted to Experimental Officer upon successful completion of the training course. Now a Chief Experimental Officer, Christina has undertaken a variety of jobs at different levels during her 25 years with the Hong Kong Observatory. These include Assistant Forecaster in the Central Forecasting Office, Officer in Charge of the Upper Air Station and the Radiation Laboratory at King's Park, and Aviation Forecaster at the Airport Meteorological Office. Presently, Christina is in charge of nuclear contingency planning. According to her observations these many years, she said, the learning opportunities and promotion prospect for female colleagues in the Observatory are on par with those for male colleagues.
From Volunteer to Weather Service Officer
Scientific Assistant Ms Annie Y Y Mak has been a member of "Friends of the Observatory" since her secondary school days when she first attended popular science lectures in meteorology. Later on, she undertook volunteer work for Friends of the Observatory, helping with the editing of its newsletter.
Serving as a Weather Services Officer in the Central Forecasting Office, one of Annie's duties is to give morning weather talks for members of the public getting ready for work or school. She is also a speaker of the department's Primary School Meteorological Knowledge Promotion Programme, visiting primary schools to tell stories about the weather. She feels that the children treat her like an elder sister. Annie said she was glad to be able to try different things in her job at the Observatory.