Supporting Women in STEM: All You Need To Know About The 2019 Scientista Symposium
These days, it seems like everyone is talking about lack of representation of women at the highest rungs of the STEM career ladder – and they’re right! As of 2015, only 24% of those employed in STEM fields were women. There are also a lot of high-quality studies showing that women are disadvantaged in these fields at every level – from entering STEM programs, to publishing, speaking opportunities, salary, implicit biases, and sexual harassment. The explosion of data exposing these issues have increased awareness and spurred action by many to start plugging the “leaky pipeline” for women in STEM. While these issues are going to take a substantial amount of time and resources to fully address, it’s encouraging to see the tide starting to shift. As a woman and fifth year PhD student in Neuroscience, I’ve found myself on the front lines of this fight.
Supporting women in science & engineering
While a graduate student at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, two colleagues and I started an organization to support women scientists at our institution. What began as a club of three young women has grown to an institutionally-supported organization of over 100 scientists and engineers. Over the past four years, CSHL Women in Science & Engineering has worked to provide professional development, networking, and mentorship resources to women of all levels at our institution and in the surrounding community. It continues to grow and the new leadership has expanded its reach to advocate for underrepresented minority scientists and support trainees struggling with issues related to mental health. I’m so proud to have handed this organization over to such a talented group of women. The time I spent building CSHL WiSE motivated me to take this work to the national level and in 2017 I joined the Scientista Foundation team.
Helping to advance the careers of women in STEM
The Scientista Foundation is national non-profit organization which seeks to advance the careers of young women in STEM. With campus chapters throughout the US and Canada, the Scientista network provides a supportive community, professional development resources, networking, and mentorship opportunities for young women pursuing studies or careers in STEM fields.
When I’m not in the lab (and sometimes when I am) I’m working as the Director for the Scientista Foundation’s annual Scientista Symposium. Each year, the Foundation hosts a three-day conference open to all students and early-career professionals in STEM. The event includes a session for undergraduates and graduate students, a pitch competition to a panel of VC companies and startup founders, a career fair with over 50 top organizations across STEM sectors, networking socials, technical and professional skill development workshops, career-focused panel discussions, and more. The Symposium welcomes over 600 attendees from across the United States with opportunities to win over $11,000 in cash scholarships.
The value of the Scientista Symposium for individuals early in their career is multifold. Events like these are critical to building your professional network, learning about potential career paths (there are more than you may think!), connecting with recruiters, practicing presentation skills, meeting new friends, mentors, potential collaborators and more. You can even have a set of professional headshots taken and your resume edited by a professional in your field for free.
As the Symposium Director, I manage a team of 15 volunteers who plan, organize, and execute everything from abstract submissions, to venue planning, sponsorships, marketing, speaker selections, and more. While this outreach work undoubtedly requires time and energy that is already scarce among us students, we recognize that this is important work and critical to helping diversify our fields. Additionally, I believe that having a project outside of the lab has helped to shield me (at least partially) from issues like impostor syndrome, anxiety, and depression that many trainees in STEM struggle with. Much like other hobbies, outreach work can serve as an outlet to meet new people, focus your energy on a positive cause, and remind yourself that you have a wide range of valuable skills (even if your experiments aren’t working at the moment!)
The Scientista Symposium - when and where?
The 2019 Symposium will be held in Boston, MA the weekend of March 29-31 and will welcome representatives and speakers from across both for-profit and non-profit STEM sectors. Some of the organizations participating include: Microsoft, Mozilla, Raytheon, AAAS, HHMI, Genentech, Novartis, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and more. If you’re interested in attending or getting involved with the Scientista Foundation, check out our website at www.scientistafoundation.com
Jackie Giovanniello is a scientist, advocate, teacher, and dog-mom extraordinaire. She’s finishing up her PhD student in Neuroscience at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she is working on understanding how neural circuits are disrupted in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorders. She is also the Symposium Director for the Scientista Foundation.
Follow Jackie on Twitter @Jackie_Gio
Follow Scientista on Twitter: @Scientista_Talk
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