A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Annual Giving Back Awards ceremony of the Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (WEST). I was there to support my colleague, Dr. Rebecca Sendak from Genzyme, a Sanofi company. Rebecca was receiving an award for the work she had done setting up a mentoring program with our college, Massachusetts Bay Community College (MassBay) where 40 Genzyme/Sanofi employees mentor an equal number of MassBay students. Even for a global company the size of Sanofi, the scale of the mentoring program is astonishing. We started with a small vision that Rebecca took to scale. No other community college in the state boasts of a similar arrangement. Rebecca navigated the internal structures of her company to make this initiative happen and for that, she has earned both my gratitude and respect.
Our Individual Call to Action
The event was a great opportunity to meet women across science fields, to meet brilliant women doing extraordinary work to give back to their communities beyond the phenomenal careers that they lead. Each of the women WEST honored that evening had an incredible story to share. The theme, that evening, that captivated me the most was the number of women who spoke to being encouraged by a teacher or loved one to embrace science and to stick to it through the middle and high school years when negative perceptions of girls loving science are at their peak. One woman spoke of her participation in a state program that targeted girls in middle school. Today, she works in research and development at a local biotechnology firm. She credited the program and her grandfather with her continued interest in science and her ultimate career choice. Another woman works with a robotics company to create programming experiences for high school middle and high school students. She was a former high school teacher whose high school teacher had inspired her as a young woman, when there were even fewer women in the field, to pursue science.
Over the last year, I have attended a number of WEST events and have found these kinds of forums to be not only inspiring, but also a call to action. As with any math-oriented disciplines, in my own field of educational measurement, there are so few women and so little diversity overall. The WEST event was a chance to celebrate extraordinary women as well as their male allies. Bringing together the community to highlight the achievements and altruistic work of women and to celebrate role models for girls who are bombarded with messages that science isn’t “cool” reminds us that we each have a role to play in cultivating the next generation of female scientists and engineers.
This post was previously published at Community College Life.
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