Summit on Women in Science – Cliffnotes

This past Monday I had the pleasure of attending a Summit on Women in Science sponsored by a number of women’s groups on campus (special shout-out to UNC WISE for killing it, really appreciate everyone’s hard work).  It consisted of 3 panel discussions populated by successful and thoughtful women and men scientists fielding questions from an audience still navigating towards futures unknown. The morning was packed with so many insightful and useful sound bites that I was kicking myself for not live tweeting the event.

So here’s a taste of the awesomeness you missed (I’m going to pretend all the speakers use their full name as twitter handles)

Panel 1 (Identifying Mentors, Building Networks, and Developing Leadership Skills):

@sharlinisankaran 2/3 science PhD students end up in a non-science field – you are not alone!

@billkier and @abigailpanter must have healthy publication record to achieve tenure, networks are crucial to keeping you focused on meeting that goal

@sharlinisankaran highly recommends this book – “How remarkable women lead” by Barsh and Cranston

@abigailpanter get your advisor to introduce you to people of interest, need to identify them before arriving at large conferences – smaller conferences are better for making connections

@abigailpanter good leaders really care about their employees and don’t waste their time

Panel 2 (Career Paths in Science):

@rebeccapogue medical writing is a female dominated field (~75%)

@jennifermccafferty my job is kind of like herding cats (on realizing her strength was seeing potential connections and coordinating very diff personalities)

@donnadecapita my meetings are about real stuff #howitshouldbe

@sheilakannapan as an undergrad wrote an essay on how physics is driving women out, put a copy in every faculty’s mailbox, got away with it and realized undergrads were untouchable #sheistheshit

@sheilakannapan astronomy is much more welcoming to women than physics

@donnadecapita men and women have different communication styles, women tend to talk through their thought process, diversity and inclusion needs to be vocally identified as a benefit to everyone – in response to a male audience member’s question “what are we doing that makes women feel uncomfortable?”

@donnadecapita stand your ground when you believe you are correct

@donnadecapita men need to call other men out on the spot if they witness a woman being treated poorly #amen

Panel 3 (Balancing Work and Life):

@ioanapopaburke worked on the original patent for Z-Tamoxifen (basically she’s a rockstar)

@carolarnosti took no maternity leave b/c taking a semester off from teaching also means no health insurance – terrible catch 22 that has since been remedied in UNC’s policies

@ioanapopaburke ask for help when you need it, your colleagues will be more receptive to you asking for their understanding rather than denial of your exhaustion

@petermucha congrats or welcome to hell (before answering a question from a new assistant professor)

Then I posed my own question to the panel – Given the grad school culture of working insane hours, as professors do you think this attitude should change and can it change?

@petermucha there are people who really will work 100 hours/week, and they will probably publish and do more work than you, as long as they exist the culture will remain

@petermucha the magic bullet – the word no – say no to things that do not add to your professional “bank account” of success

@carolarnosti had a student who would come hang up his jacket every Saturday morning and then went kitesurfing, everyone in lab knew – if you want to go kitesurfing, just go, DON’T pretend you’re in lab

@carolarnosti a student can work any form of irregular hours, the key is just that they get the work done

@petermucha work smarter not harder and embrace your own culture!


All in all, it was a great way to spend a morning, glimpsing down the paths others have taken and thinking about how certain aspects align with our own desires. I will say one thing about graduate school, for better or worse, you get 5 years to figure out what you’re going to do when it’s over, and with events like these, you don’t have to do it alone.


2 thoughts on “Summit on Women in Science – Cliffnotes

  1. Pingback: Summit on Women in Science – Recap | UNC WISE

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