Our Women in Science Career Issues group began as a small contingent of individuals having discussions relating to gender bias in science careers, and within 6 months grew to a core team of a dozen members. The group meets monthly for 1-1.5 hours at an off campus site to discuss career development issues relating to gender communications. The overall goal of this group is to encourage an open exchange of ideas and information among men and women in scientific academic careers to promote career advancement and engage in active problem-solving. The group provides an honest and supportive environment that fosters an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust.
Participation by both men and women, and by persons of a wide range of career stages, (graduate students, assistant professors, associate professors and full professors, special and tenure tract appointments ranging from early career to senior faculty members) has afforded a diversity of ideas and perspectives during wide-ranging discussions. Topics have included published literature and life experience, communication hurdles, multi-generational workplaces, gender bias in the workplace and at scientific conferences, and differences in gender roles in the workplace. Tangible outcomes from these conversations have included: (1) helping to initiate one of the Ripple Effect-funded discussion groups; (2) advising individuals during negotiation and career decision-making processes; and, (3) encouragement to forge new collaborations.
Over the past year members of this group have realized the positive impact this community has on their career paths, and we have received contact from individuals outside of this group with considerable interest in establishing additional similar groups at Colorado State University (CSU).
“As the senior gender minority member of our Career Issues group, I have felt privileged and encouraged by this experience. Owing to the vision and discretion of the CI group founders, the group has provided a safe empathetic and when needed critical environment for women to express and receive understanding, counsel, and counterpoint concerning difficult situations and critical issues in every day work life. What has been clear to me is that the relationships built and deepened in the group have made interactions candid and meetings fun (such an important thing in life). My sense is that all members have experienced tangible benefit, enjoyment, and are prepared to catalyze additional CI groups.
A note, at CSU I am responsible for two programs designed to train veterinarians to be the biomedical scientists needed to responded to pressing global health issues affecting animals, humans, and the environment (often now referred to as one health). These scientists are predominantly women. The world will benefit greatly from their effective interaction with a diversity of men and women, including those in positions of responsibility and influence. In this, and the many parallel examples, the CI group(s) will have impact.” – Dr. Edward Hoover DVM, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, National Academy of Sciences
“The Career Issues group has provided me with a broad perspective of academia because of the diversity of our attendees. We have students, post docs, assistant professors, full professors, and administrators, all with differing clinical, research and service appointments within the university. The “Lean In” focus of the group has given the group a topical focus, with each member rotating through presenting a topic of their choice. We have covered important subjects such as transparency in leadership, how to write your own letter of recommendation, the different attitudes toward self-promotion between men and women, among others. The presence of both men and women in the group creates a balanced perspective on each topic, and I am able to use the content of each discussion to improve my outlook, productivity and interpersonal work relationships. This group has provided me with a grounding in a small community of open people with similar ambitions and struggles, something I have not experienced before in my 20 years of academia.” – Dr. Christine Olver DVM, PhD, DACVP
“The career issues group provides a safe environment to discuss issues related to gender that are difficult, challenging and interesting. Fundamental to the success of the group has been the trust that has been gained over the many months we have met. Hearing the perspectives and experiences from women and men are thought provoking and allows me to consider my own bias. Importantly, I believe it has helped me to be a better leader and advocate for women in my department.” – Dr. Gregg Dean DVM, PhD, MIP Department Head
“My participation in the Career Issues group has been invaluable for my training as a scientist, as well as for preparing me for a career in academia. The community, mentorship, and vocal support for equality from professors in the group has made this one of most the valuable projects I’ve participated in at CSU.” – Dr. Danielle Adney PhD, CVMBS Veterinary Class 2020
“As a woman in a male dominated field, I found it difficult to identify strong female mentors or colleagues with whom I could discuss the development of my career and express concerns related to my gender. The career issues group has allowed me to connect with women and men at various stages of their careers providing a perspective on gender issues that has helped me to navigate those challenges with confidence and a new understanding that I would not have developed otherwise. It has been an invaluable experience.” – Anonymous
“One issue that we have discussed several times in our Career issues group is the importance of male advocacy of women and women’s issues among other men. While we know it is important to be sensitive of these issues (salary and status inequities, personal leave stigmas, leadership development and opportunities, etc) and personally supportive of change, this is not enough. Men must actively combat sexism and gender stereotypes, and the boys’ club and “locker room” mentalities that enable them, by confronting this bad behavior when we encounter it. We must engage our gender peers in discussion of why we think this behavior is unacceptable and challenge ourselves to find ways to change it.” – Dr. Mark Zabel PhD, MIP Associate Department Head for Graduate Education