The World Needs Science…And Science Needs Women
The United Nations has declared today, Feb. 11, International Women & Girls in Science Day. The day marks the contributions of women in STEM and seeks to motivate the next generation of young women and girls to enter the field of science. To help recognize this event, we asked some women researchers and students for their take on this important issue and highlight Lab programs that encourage the pursuit of science education and careers for women, and support them once they are here.
Why do you think it is important to get women & girls interested in science and what are some of the positive impacts it’s had on you?
Madeleine Leibovitch: Former Lab Intern and Student at Barnard College
My identity as a scientist and aspiring physicist is a great source of empowerment. I love that I get to be part of a field where the goal is exploration, discovery, and inquiry and that all of these things connect to how we understand the universe and our role in it. Had I not received encouragement from people who believed in getting girls into STEM, I’m not sure how I would have come to this realization of my dream career. Science and the people doing science benefit from diversifying STEM fields because homogeneity in demographics can make for homogeneity in thinking, and everyone benefits from different minds working on the world’s scientific questions and problems.
Ina Reichel: Senior Scientific Engineering Associate in the Physical Sciences Area and Chair of the WSEC
While it’s important to encourage women and girls to enter science, I think that the science community needs to be more welcoming to them. Women are often seen as less capable or accomplished as their male counterparts (even when they are not) and as a result, have a harder time advancing their careers (there are numerous studies showing this). They are often the victim of microaggressions resulting in them leaving science altogether. I encourage my fellow scientists to learn more about implicit bias, microaggressions, and how to be an upstander to keep more women in the field.
Valentine Trotter: Former Lab Postdoc & Project Scientist in the Biosciences Area
I think that it is important to get more people interested in science in general but women and girls in particular. It is a pity to miss the potential of half of the population when there are so many questions to answer and so many challenges to address. A more diverse perspective and appreciation are essential for new ideas in science. Also, triggering interest in something that may be too often considered out of their reach, can be empowering at many levels. My own interest in science led me to a career in which I can communicate with people from around the world based on common shareable knowledge.
Jennifer Doyle: Mechanical Engineer in the Physical Sciences Area and K-12 Volunteer
Like many girls, I grew up loving arts and crafts and making things with my hands. Like many women, I want to make a difference in the world. By being a mechanical engineer at a national lab, I get to spend every day making things that have a huge global scientific impact. Growing up, I never expected I would someday work in science, but the job of taking conceptual ideas and turning them into a tangible reality is a perfect fit for me – and potentially for many other young girls and women, too.
Lab Programs That Help Support Women & Girls in Science:
K-12 STEM Education & Outreach Program
This program brings local students to the Lab for STEM-related activities and tours, including a Nuclear Science Day for Scouts and Bring Your Kid to Work Day. They also participate in the City of Oakland summer camps and help coordinate Lab volunteers for community events. In 2019, the office hosted and participated in more than 40 outreach programs interacting with over 2000 students. This summer the office will host its first Science Accelerating Girls Engagement in STEM (SAGE-S) residential program in collaboration with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. More>
Workforce Development & Education
WD&E offers a range of internship programs for undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, graduate students, and faculty. Interns work with Lab mentors on research projects across various scientific disciplines. In 2019, WD&E partnered with 100 mentors representing every Division Area at the Lab. In total, 156 interns (39% of whom are women) worked on 143 projects across 8 programs. WD&E also hosts visits to the Lab, targeting underrepresented and underserved groups. In 2019, WD&E engaged with 46 students through these programs; 52% women, 46% first generation to college, 41% attending community colleges, and 31% underrepresented minorities. More>
Women Scientist & Engineers Council (WSEC)
In partnership with HR, the WSEC develops strategies for recruitment, retention, work-life balance, and the empowerment of women scientists and engineers at the Lab. WSEC hosts training, networking opportunities, talks, peer exchanges, and the Women@The Lab awards. WSEC accomplishments include initiating training on microaggressions, establishing paid parental leave, the creation of lactation rooms around the Lab, as well as parking assistance for expectant mothers. More>
The Career Pathways Office provides professional development to the Lab’s early career researchers through the Postdoc program, Early Career Enrichment Program (ECEP), and our annual Berkeley Lab Research SLAM.
The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) program seeks to create a safe, supportive, and fair environment for women scientists and enables them to fully contribute as valued members of the Lab community. Training, toolkits, and resources are available to enhance team effectiveness, mitigate implicit bias, and build psychological safety, among other topics. IDEA also provides Information on family support programs. More>
HR Talent Outreach and Sourcing
This program seeks to develop talent pipelines for the Lab through attendance at STEM-related diversity events, partnerships with key organizations, and proactive engagement of candidates for job opportunities at the Lab. They also collaborate with various Lab groups to help promote and brand Berkeley Lab as an employer of choice for diverse talent.