Learning from 2016, to make 2017 WISeR’s best year yet

Many of us are relieved that 2016 has finally come to a close, but even with its struggles, 2016 was a great year for WISeR and Rockefeller.

In this new year, I want to thank you all for your investment into this group and participation in our activities. I’m excited to share with you both some highlights from 2016, as well as our plans for this new year (and how you can get more involved). We had a huge jump in volunteers and feedback from our members in 2016, and I’m looking forward to have even more folks come together in 2017 to make Rockefeller a better place for women and minorities.

WISeR ended 2015 with a survey of campus and started 2016 evaluating the survey results and sharing them with committees and campus leaders. We are happy to see at least two of the suggestions we made were already in the works or have emerged:

  • As we post this, construction has started on the faculty club bathrooms, which have long been bemoaned by women on campus. The men’s bathroom (3 urinals, 3 stalls) and women’s bathroom (1 stall) are being merged to create a spacious, modern, gender neutral bathroom with 8 fully private stalls.
  • We have also already seen the benefits of a serious investment in revamping the open search for junior faculty. Rockefeller recruited several great new faculty members, including two women and our first black faculty member, Dr. Erich Jarvis! We look forward to the other amazing talent we continue to recruit with this increased attention to and appreciation of diversity and inclusion. We will continue to push to make sure the tenure process to is or will be similarly evaluated for bias and improved.

These victories would not be possible without feedback from you, members, and we’ve enjoyed hearing from you as we’ve continued our yearly traditions, like our breakfast series (which we now share with PRISM), our annual end-of-year BBQ, and our members meetings. We’ve also launched several new programs and events, which you can learn more about by reading and clicking the links below:

New Programs in 2016

  • Elections. We had our first elections and elected a fantastic board to lead and administrate this great group this year. We hope this increases transparency and opportunities to get involved.
  • Woman of the month. We launched a blog series highlighting amazing alumnae from Rockefeller. So far, we’ve met with Monica Mugnier who just started her lab at Johns Hopkins, and Jeanne Garbarino, head of Outreach. (If you have an alumna you’d love to meet and write about, let us know. We’ll help you get in touch, pay for your coffee/lunch, and help you write about the experience!)
  • Tri-I Women in Science Mixer. We had our first Tri-I Women in Science Mixer, where we brought together all of the women’s groups and met, talked about science, and shared some of thoughts and experiences. We definitely plan to do this again next year!
  • Faculty Search Bootcamp. Along with the PDA and Andrea Morris, we helped start the now annual faculty search bootcamp which prepares a small group of currently-applying postdocs to face the academic job market through a few intensive days covering everything from cover letters to chalk talks and negotiating start ups.
  • Improv(e) Your Science. Dr. Aniek Ivens, a postdoc in the Kronauer lab, has been leading improv workshops to help scientists improve their presentation skills in a fun and accessible way. We’ve held a few of these workshops, and Aniek plans to hold a few more in the new year (as well as a level 2 workshop!).
  • Anti-Harassment Workshops. WISeR hired Dr. Sherry Martz to come talk about how individual women can learn to spot, stop, and prevent certain forms of harassment, and also techniques to safely remove yourself from some difficult situations.
  • Feminist Book Club. I am most proud of our new Feminist Book Club, which meets ~monthly to discuss feminist readings. The goal of this group is not only to get people together and talk about feminism, but also to increase the awareness of feminist thought and topics at Rockefeller and hopefully impact the discourse at our events and around campus. Also, it’s just great to have an excuse to read fantastic work! You can join in the next meeting by reading Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and joining the group on January 23, 8pm in the Faculty Club.

Things to Look Forward to in 2017

  • Survey. We will again survey the campus specifically about issues relevant to women and gender minorities on campus as well as issues that particularly affect women and gender minorities. To do this, we need to know what is important to our community, what levels of support already exist on campus, and where we can better educate people about our community’s needs.
  • Mentorship Program. I am so excited to see the launch of our mentorship program January 28th! Sign up here if you’re interested in helping out.
  • Letters of Recommendation. We are working on a blog post to raise awareness about how letters of recommendation are often biased, and how our faculty can make sure our female trainees are getting the same leg up that our male trainees have from the ever-coveted recommendation letters from faculty.
  • Campus Lecture Series. Many of our members have noticed that not all campus seminars are created equal. We’ll be launching an awareness and improvement campaign directed at making our campus lecture series more diverse.
  • Outreach: Lab Out Loud. We’re partnering up with one of Rockefeller’s greatest assets, RockEdu, to co-host Lab Out Loud on February 28th. We’ll be looking for members to share their stories of failure as an important aspect of science that isn’t often highlighted for young folks interested in our career paths. We’ll also get to meet and talk to each other and high schoolers about what it’s like to be a scientist.
  • Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Wikipedia entries for female scientists are few and far between, and usually have very little information compared to their male peers. We’re aiming to change that by editing existing entries and adding new ones under the guidance of certified Wikipedians with fellow women in science from around the city.
  • And more… We’re always open to new ideas, and have some flexibility in our budget to make new things happen. Some of these new ideas include:
    • Writing workshops
    • Financial planning
    • Leaning into academia bootcamp
    • Leadership workshops

We’ve also had a lot of folks talk to us about anxiety around policies to come under the new Presidential administration that target women, minorities, and immigrant communities. WISeR is addressing these concerns in a few ways:

  • Sharing your concerns anonymously. We will communicate your concerns to the Rockefeller administration and will pressure them to provide resources and a statement of how we will protect the amazing community we have on campus as many are concerned about their lives, bodies, and their immigration status. The more stories we have, the more powerful our case, so please share your story here.
  • Providing (low energy barrier) places for action. We will provide a few political action events, as well as places to use our skills and knowledge to improve the lives of women in science. Outreach like our Lab Out Loud event on February 28th provides opportunities to meet with and talk to students, and our Wikipedia edit-a-thon address problems in science that we can actively impact immediately.
  • Providing a place for positive change. WISeR can’t change the outcome of the election, but we can make our labs safer and better places, we can improve the lives of women at Rockefeller, and we can work toward a more equal scientific enterprise. We can also make sure your voices are heard through our blog, and build a community focused on helping each other and lifting each other up. Every bit matters, and we will provide as many places for you to improve the world we live in as we can.

What can you do to get more involved? You can always contact us and we can either find a place where you would like to get involved in one of our ongoing programs, or we can help you launch an idea or project of your own. To join some ongoing programs, you can:

  • Join our mailing list (and follow us on Facebook) we always have new projects and events, some which are only available to our community through our email list.
  • Recommend a woman or minority speaker. We’ll do a big push for speakers later in 2017, but we’re constantly accepting ideas and will keep an ongoing list for the different groups on campus (and if the list is big enough, for the whole scientific community).
  • Host a breakfast with a FLS speaker by emailing our awesome breakfast coordinator, Sarah Stern.
  • Join the mentorship team for our January 28th launch!
  • Interview an alumna! We’ll buy you both lunch, you write about her for the blog. It can be a former postdoc, graduate student, or faculty member.
  • Give input on the 2017 survey! Help us make sure it’s as useful and great as our last survey.
  • Volunteer for Lab Out Loud! Tell a short story about a time you failed, or come talk to high schoolers after the event, or both!
  • Write for our blog. We’ve sent people to see Ghostbusters and to talks around the city. Check in with us before you go and we can buy your ticket and/or help you write. Email Maryam Zaringhalam with ideas or questions!
  • Join our board. We’ll be looking for a few new board members in May as we have a few of our current board members leaving Rockefeller for new jobs. To become a board member you must demonstrate interest/commitment like being involved in one of our ongoing activities so definitely volunteer for one or more of the activities above and let us know if you want to be more involved.

I became President of this great group at the end of 2015. I am so proud of what we have accomplished over the last year, and I can not wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2017. If there’s anything I can do to help us serve you better, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

Now, let’s get to work.

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