Summer on college campuses is usually a slow, relaxed time with a break in all collegiate activities until the students return in the fall. Not so for Women in Science. The fight for more diversity in the sciences never ceases, and neither do our events!
This summer Women in Science organized and led brown bag lunch discussions for students participating in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs on campus. The idea for the events was brought to us by the graduate coordinator of the PopBio REU program, who requested us to lead a discussion on WiSci related topics with her students. We of course loved the idea and arranged a date to discuss the inequalities women face in science, using the New York Times article “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” as a basis for discussion. (link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?_r=1)
Our first lunch discussion went off without a hitch! About 15 students attended that were a mix of males and females from across the country, giving us a variety of different perspectives on the topics. We covered everything from personal experiences of bias to cultural drivers of sexism and beyond. All of the participants were excited to share their views on the inequalities female scientists face. One student brought up the Tree Change Dolls®, a project trying to change our culture by modifying mainstream dolls without makeup and more down to earth, outdoor friendly clothing. It was encouraging, although unsurprising, to see the men in the crowd equally as enraged and frustrated as the women about the biases that still exist.
Due to the success of the first lunch discussion, we wanted to open up the opportunity to participants of all other REU programs on campus. We sent out an open invitation to join us in a discussion on the imposter syndrome. This time five female students attended, and we discussed feelings associated with the imposter syndrome as well as answered any questions they had about graduate school. During the lunch discussion, everyone took a quiz to find out how often they actually exhibit symptoms of imposter syndrome. This proved to be a fun and eye-opening way to learn about the topic. Undergraduate and graduate students alike were surprised to find some thoughts or feelings they had were actually associated with imposter syndrome.
Overall, the lunch discussions with the REU program students were a great opportunity to “spread the word” to our next generation of scientists. Women in Science has always done a great job of involving young scientists from undergraduates to high school students, and the summer lunch discussion series was just another example of this effort.