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Tips For Female Scientists

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Career Development | January 26, 2017

The Women in Science: Development, Outreach, Mentoring group had their first launch event featuring guest speaker Dr. Susan Mooberry.

The group, WISDOM, was started earlier this year by a small group of female graduate students under the leadership of Dr. Teresa Evans.

“Through various interactions with women students and postdocs, I saw a recurring need for female trainees at the health science center to connect and be supported by one another as they are overcoming similar challenges,” said Dr. Evans, the director of workforce development at the Graduate School.

After meeting several times, the students decided to form WISDOM to help provide professional development and networking opportunities, as well as support for students and postdocs facing issues specific to women in science.

“We also aim to engage the community through outreach to empower young women and girls to pursue their interests in science,” said Tara Holmgren, the president of WISDOM and a graduate student in the Department of Physiology. “It’s important for girls to know that there are women in STEM fields who can be their role model.”

Dr. Mooberry is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and also will be the faculty sponsor for the student group.

During the meeting, Dr. Mooberry gave several tips for female scientists.

Tip #1: Be aware of bias

It’s important for women in know that while significant improvements have been made, bias still exists in science and that many women are leaving the field which is why there is a need to have a community to help support each other, to network, and facilitate success.

Tip #2: There is a gap but we need to stand up

There is a gap in the number of women in careers in STEM and we need to fill this gap. There still remain discrepancies in the wages of females and males, including in academic medicine. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Jena el al showed that salary differences exist in academic medicine, even after adjustments for experience, age, rank, specialty and institution, the results show that women still make $20,000 less than their male peers. In an example highlighted by the Women in Cell Biology, it was found that two candidates with similar qualifications were hired for similar positions yet-the male candidate negotiated for a higher salary while the female candidate did not, resulting in pay disparities. “In situations like this, it’s not the institution that is holding the woman back---it’s our own inabilities to negotiate,” said Dr. Mooberry. “Women have to stand up for ourselves and for each other.”

Tip #3: There are wonderful mentors

It’s vital for students to find mentors for themselves because this will be the people that will advocate for you, the more advocates you have, the better. Form those relationships now as a graduate students and know that there are wonderful female and male faculty members that are committed to helping you succeed.

Tip #4: Take The Lead

If you see a need, don’t hesitate to take the lead---it may be as simple as fixing something in your lab or starting your own journal club.

Tip #5: Advocate for Yourself or Others

It’s often hard for women to advocate for ourselves but think of yourself as advocating for your lab group or your peers. Women often won’t self-nominate so maybe we should include nominations from other people.

Tip #6: Work Hard and Be Efficient

You will have milestones along the way and it’s important for you to keep working towards those goals and not get distracted. Keep your eye on the ball. Be aware of how much time you waste, do you need to respond immediately to every contact on your phone? Sometimes we feel the need to answer emails immediately, but you are in control and don’t let the device waste your time and distract you. Use it as a tool, be able to turn it off to focus and set some time aside to work efficiently on your qualifying exam or dissertation research for example, and you can be more efficient.

Tip #7: Reach Out To Your Peers

Be sure to help those around you, we all know that the last stretch before your dissertation is the hardest so if you know someone, reach out. Don’t be afraid to be a mentor to someone else.

Tip #8: Have Fun

Take the time to reset---often those are the times when you can think of new ideas because you are not so stressed.

Tip #9: Be Focused and Learn To Say No

Be focused and don’t take on too much. You might be asked to serve on lots of committees but don’t just say yes unless it actually is something that you want to do and something that will benefit your career. You can say no. Learn to do so. 

Women in Science Breakfast Club

Date: Thursday, February 9

Time: 9-10 a.m.

Where: Howe Conference Room (LIB 5.070)

How: Join us for breakfast and a discussion about issues for women in the sciences. 

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