Women scientists were prohibited from working in Antarctica until Soviet geologist Maria Klenova began her research there in 1956. Despite their contributions since, women comprise only 11% of medal winners from the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Our aim is to raise the profile of influential female researchers to inspire the roughly 60% of early-career polar scientists who are women.

Notable contributions by women include the discovery of potential methane reservoirs beneath Antarctica (5 female authors out of 13: J. L. Wadham et al. Nature 488, 633–637; 2012); the finding that snow melting accelerated in the twentieth century (4 of 9 authors: N. J. Abram et al. Nature Geosci. 6, 404–411; 2013); and insights into life in the deep Southern Ocean (12 of 21: A. Brandt et al. Nature 447, 307–311; 2007). The directors of the two largest polar institutes, the British Antarctic Survey and the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, are women.

To boost recognition of such achievements, we are writing referenced biographies for prominent female Antarctic scientists, and have received 170 nominations from 30 countries (see go.nature.com/2azwkjq). Examples include In-Young Ahn of the Korea Polar Research Institute, the first Asian woman to lead an Antarctic station, and Lois Jones, who in 1969 led the first all-female Antarctic research team.