#IamAWomanInSTEM Event Recap

IMG_3159.jpgIMG_3146.jpgPursuing STEM as a woman can come with it many obstacles and microagressions based on gender. To address and recognize these challenges, we organized a week-long art and photo project, titled #IAmAWomanInSTEM. The project included making a canvas with microaggressions that people in our community have faced written on it, and later taking photos with the canvas. We ended the event with a debrief and recap on Friday.

The purpose of the project was to acknowledge the gender-based microaggressions that women in STEM here at Stanford face, yet also provide a safe space for these people to discuss their experiences and find support. The week-long event started on Tuesday, with canvas decorating in White Plaza. The canvas featured microaggressions that those in our community have heard in their academic or professional work. On Wednesday, we took photos of women in STEM in front of the canvas. We made signs (saying “#IAmAWomanInSTEM &&) that people could fill out to describe themselves. Some favorites read “#IAmAWomanInSTEM && a justice seeker” and “#IAmAWomanInSTEM && an educator.” The intent of this was to show that despite the negative experiences, many can claim their identities beyond the stereotypes of being a woman in STEM. The lunch debrief at the WCC on Friday served to discuss not only the event but also to provide a space to share experiences of being a woman in STEM at Stanford.

Over the past week, I most enjoyed talking to the people who came up to our table while we were making the canvas and taking the photos. We got a lot of women coming up to us and commenting that they had such similar experiences as the ones on the canvas. I think it’s all too easy sometimes to forget that you’re not alone, especially when faced with challenges. Talking to those who came up to us, I was reminded that despite obstacles, there is a huge, supportive community of women in STEM who know exactly what it’s like to be a minority in a STEM field. At our lunch debrief on Friday, we discussed the importance of supportive communities as women in STEM. Seeking communities, role models, and supportive friends can be instrumental in succeeding as a woman in STEM. We also discussed strategies to take care of ourselves and empower ourselves when faced with challenges. From the entire week, I walked away with a sense of empowerment, a sense that I had communities to rely upon despite obstacles.

The conversation about women in STEM is certainly not over and we hope that this event contributed to this important discussion in our community.

Produced by the Women In STEM team: Irene Jeon, Natalie Gable, and Celina Malave

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Women in STEM Admit Weekend Panel

During Admit Weekend, the Women’s Community Center hosted a Woman in STEM panel for prospective freshmen. The purpose of the panel was to share experiences of being a woman in STEM at Stanford and also give advice to the prospective freshmen interested in pursuing STEM.

On the panel were Celina Malavé (BioE, 2016), Michaela Hinks (BioE, 2017), Hannah Kay (HumBio, 2017), Pooja Varman (HumBio, 2017), Alona King (CS, 2017), Kelsey Schroeder (MCS, 2017), Irene Jeon (MCS/SymSys, 2018), and Natalie Gable (Undeclared, 2019). The event opened with each panelist giving a brief introduction of themselves, their major, and a quick story about their academic career at Stanford. The floor then opened for ProFros to ask questions, on topics ranging from research to homework to specifically being a woman in STEM at Stanford.

There were a few topics that repeatedly came up during the panel: finding supportive teams to work with, asking for help, and not comparing oneself to others.

Some advice that was shared: Everyone knows that being a Stanford student is academically challenging and overwhelming at some times. However, school can be so much easier (and more enjoyable) when you have a supportive group of people to work with. Why slog through homework alone when you can have late night pset parties? Many of the panelists agreed that finding these groups during their freshman year was not only helpful in terms of classes, but also in terms of finding communities. Another common theme was the importance of asking for help and using the many, many resources that Stanford provides. TA’s and office hours are there to help you—take advantage of them! And finally, don’t stress yourself out by comparing yourself to others. It’s best to focus on your own work without worrying about how others are doing in their classes.

The turnout for the event was successful and we hope we were able to give a few words of wisdom to the next class of badass women in STEM!

 

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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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Women in STEM Symposium

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On February 21, 2015, the Stanford Women’s Community Center and WISE Ventures  teamed up for the first student-organized, campus-wide Stanford Women in STEM Symposium, a culmination of various interests and efforts to bring the larger Stanford community together to celebrate the contributions of women in STEM fields. This student-initiated and organized one-day event included participation from a broad range of academic departments, student groups, and alumni.

The goal of the symposium was to celebrate progress, to build awareness of the key issues and challenges women in STEM face, and to create a vision for the future through a series of speakers, panels, and workshops. We hoped to provide an engaging educational opportunity for people of all genders, identities, and backgrounds to explore important topics affecting women in STEM and to equip attendees to become agents of change.

This event was a collaborative effort among the Society of Black Scientists and Engineers, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Society of Latino Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Computer Science, the Graduate Society of Women Engineers, the Mechanical Engineering Women’s Group, Women in Physics, and the First Generation, Low Income Partnership.

Schedule:

9:30am Registration, Breakfast, Mentoring Session 1
10:00am Brief Introduction and Opening Remarks
10:05am Where are we now? (Discussion Section)
10:30am Breakout Session 1:

  • Career Spotlight: Christine Ortiz, Dean for Graduate Education at MIT, will discuss her experiences and career trajectory.
  • Navigating Student Life: A panel of undergraduate and graduate students will share their thoughts and experiences as women in STEM at Stanford.
11:10am Break
11:20am Breakout Session 2:

  • Paying the Price for Sugar and Spice – Exploring Math Education and Gender: Jo Boaler, Professor of Education, will give a talk on how math education in the U.S. affects girls in the classroom and beyond.
  • What Matters to You?: Bhavna Hariharan, Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. alumna and lecturer in the School of Humanities and Sciences, will speak about how she combines her passion for engineering and social justice.
12:00pm Lunch Keynote Speaker:
Hear Karan Watson, Provost of Texas A&M, speak about her life and advocacy for minorities in STEM.
1:15pm Poster Session with Dessert and Coffee:
Peruse posters of incredible work done by women scientists, engineers, and mathematicians at Stanford over coffee and dessert.
1:45pm Design and Collaboration Session