Women in STEM Symposium Recap

The conversation surrounding women in STEM fields often revolves around the cultural, structural issues that discourage women from pursuing science, tech, engineering or math. But what about the mental and emotional health of women in STEM? This year’s Women in STEM Symposium aimed to address this topic: what are strategies for self-care and resilience when working in a field dominated by men?

On Friday February, 19th, the WCC hosted the 2nd Annual Women in STEM Symposium, an afternoon for women in STEM to authentically discuss barriers faced in their academic or professional careers. The goal of the event was to discuss these obstacles and present tools to help women navigate through the STEM fields with healthy mindsets.

We hosted three phenomenal speakers:
Meag-gan Walters, Postdoctoral Fellow at CAPS
Lea Coligado, ‘16 Computer Science, Founder of the Women of Silicon Valley blog
Mana Nakagawa, ’15 Ph.D, ’12 MA Sociology, Leading Women in Diversity at Facebook

We kicked off the symposium with a self-care workshop led by Meag-gan Walters, a postdoctoral fellow at CAPS who specializes in counseling psychology. During the workshop, we discussed the importance of sleep hygiene and proactively carving out time for self-care.
Then we had a talk with Lea Coligado, a current senior at Stanford and the founder of the Women of Silicon Valley blog (https://medium.com/@WomenOfSiliconValley) on increasing diversity in STEM.
We finished with Mana Nakagawa’s talk on her thesis on decreasing number of women at higher level positions (e.g. tenured positions, executive positions, etc.), her role at Facebook and strategies to increase diversity, and combat institutionalized biases – regarding race, disability, and gender.

Some takeaways we had from the Symposium:

Yes, you do have the time for self-care!
At some point or another, we’ve all been stressed out. And it’s easy, in these situations, to prioritize work over anything else. However, focusing only on work can be a slippery slope and cause even more stress in the future. Proactively carving out time (even if just for a few minutes during your hour between classes!) is hugely beneficial in the long run.

Sleep is also so important.

Finding role models can be empowering!
Entering STEM fields as a woman can be daunting, especially when there are few visible role models. Lea Coligado’s blog, Women of Silicon Valley, directly targets this issue. It’s important to find these role models, as a reminder that succeeding as a woman in tech (or other STEM field) is very possible!

Find a topic you’re passionate about.
Mana Nakagawa shared some personal anecdotes about her own academic and professional career. She spent a lot of her time as an undergrad and grad student working on her thesis on women in leadership in universities around the world. Out of school, she was able to find a job that aligned perfectly with her interests. Lesson learned: finding something you’re passionate about will open up exciting opportunities.

Resilience often comes from recognizing your own strengths
At a certain point in the conversation, we all went around and shared our proudest accomplishment. Hearing others share their talents and recognizing our own was hugely empowering.

You are definitely not alone!
The Symposium felt like a safe space for women in STEM to share their own experiences authentically. Participants were able to support each other and share advice on succeeding in their careers. Having these spaces are critical in supporting and empowering women in STEM.

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