July 2019 meeting summary

The June and July 2019 WIBS meetings were dedicated to open discussion. Here are some of the things we talked about at the July meeting this Monday:

Non-academic careers: One of our members asked if there’s a way we could cover a wide range of non-academic careers all at once, for example by doing a biology-specific career fair at some point (inviting people who work at museums, in industry, in science writing/communication, in conservation, in patent law, at NGOs, etc.) It’s not clear how well this need is met by other groups on campus such as GWIS, URBEST, and the med center. We’re going to keep an eye out for relevant events organized by these groups and advertise them to the WIBS mailing list. (By the way – please join the mailing list if you’re not on it!)

Conferences: Several people went to conferences this summer and shared a bit about their experiences. One member pointed out that conferences and in particular leaving the conference venue can be uniquely hazardous for female scientists (given the recent news about Suzanne Eaton.) It’s important to use the buddy system if you don’t feel safe. Within the conference venue, some societies or conference organizers have instituted sexual assault prevention measures such as a code of conduct and external reporting, though based on our members’ experience these efforts may or may not be very visible to conference attendees.

On a lighter note, we talked about how to meet new people at conferences, for example by going to a “flying solo” mixer for people who aren’t at the conference with their labmates, meeting people at lunch and dinner, and going to other people’s posters and inviting them to your poster. It’s great to have “conference buddies” that you see every year.

Outreach: Several labs in the department did outreach through the Upward Bound program this summer. We talked about the importance of long-term mentoring relationships; it would be great to have the same kids come back every year, or stay for several months. One of our members suggested that we could try to connect with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which would be a different demographic of kids than Upward Bound reaches (Upward Bound focuses on students whose parents can be involved.)

Format of future WIBS meetings: A few people suggested that some of the future WIBS meetings could be so that we all read a paper in advance, then discuss it at the meeting. This would give us a topic and starting place for discussion (and data to look at.) It can be awkward to have an “expert” or speaker in the room when we’re trying to have a discussion; reading a paper would put everyone on equal footing.

At the next meeting (either the end of August or start of September), we’re going to spend more time talking about the format/structure of future WIBS meetings, and future directions for WIBS more generally. Hope to see you then!

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