Theater and calculus don’t mix, or do they?
Meteorologist Emily Sutton is breaking down gender barriers
According to some, Emily Sutton is not one person. She’s two.
There’s the Emily who loves theater, dancing, and performing the National Anthem at professional sporting events.
Then there’s the Emily who is fascinated by atmospheric physics, like the omega equation that determines buoyancy and lift in the atmosphere.
Some might call that a split personality, but as the first female meteorologist to work at KFOR-4 in Oklahoma City, and WCYB-TV in Bristol Tennessee/Virginia, Sutton prefers to describe herself as someone who just refused to choose.
“As a little girl, I always enjoyed the fine arts. But I was also fascinated with weather and science,” said Sutton. “Tornados, in particular, were both fascinating and terrifying.”
While at the University of Missouri to obtain a journalism degree, Sutton’s life was changed in 2004 when she joined the school’s storm chase team and witnessed her first tornado.
“It was a weak tornado in a farm field in Oklahoma,” she said. “I was thrilled by the experience. One month later our team watched five tornados tear across Kansas. That was it. The next day I added meteorology to my field of study. ”
ATMOS 100: Intro to Meteorology
Meteorology is standing in front of a green screen on TV, pointing at a smiley sun face and scary clouds with lightning coming out of them, right?
Meteorology is the scientific study of the atmosphere. Meteorologists use scientific principles to observe, explain, and forecast our weather. They often focus on atmospheric research or operational weather forecasting. Research meteorologists can cover several sub disciplines of meteorology including: air quality, atmospheric physics, and climate change.
Sutton immediately noticed something unusual about her calculus, physics, and other science classes. There were hardly any women. A worldwide study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found girls generally outperform boys in science – except in the United States. The gap is thought to be due to gender roles being formed and reinforced early in life, and the incentives different countries offer for pursuing math and science degrees.
Photos by Leia Smethurst Photography
In the past, the meteorology field has been a career path dominated by males. As the first female meteorologist in her two previous positions, Sutton learned quickly that she is seen differently than the others on her team.
“From the start of my career, I noticed that some viewers were obsessed with little things like my clothes and the length of my hair,” she said. “I had to focus on lowering the pitch of my voice so I sounded more calm and professional.”
On The Bright Side
These are barriers that many female newswomen and meteorologists face. But Sutton has also found that there are advantages to being a female in her field.
“I love teaching kids about the nerdy science parts of weather and how it impacts us,” Sutton says.
One of Sutton’s best pieces of advice is aimed towards girls who are forced to choose between fine arts and literature or math and science.
“Why can’t we have both?” she says. “Girls need to explore options and try different things. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must choose between one or the other. You may end up excelling in theater and calculus.”
Click here to watch Emily share her experience with a close call tornado.
Emily Sutton and several other female meteorologists shared their experiences and perspectives at the 2016 National Tornado Summit in March. The summit site shared this about Sutton’s session:
“Being a meteorologist and predicting potentially deadly weather isn’t a job for the faint of heart and some would argue it’s even more difficult for those that are female. Get the forecast wrong, and you’re liable to be labeled just a weather girl, but over the decade’s women are increasingly taking on the role of meteorologists and making strides in the fields of science and meteorology.”
State Farm is proud to be a sponsor of the 2016 National Tornado Summit and encourages both girls and boys to follow their dreams.