Can you talk about the mentoring event the pod is focusing on? What is the aim of this mentoring program?
We designed our kick-off meeting as a Speed Mentoring event, with the explicit goal of connecting potential mentors and mentees. To us, it is important to define the term ‘mentor’ broadly and to acknowledge that multiple mentors are necessary to ensure personal fulfillment. Each of us has multiple dimensions across which we need guidance; these can range from our formal scholarly interest (e.g., mechanisms of memory encoding) or methodology (e.g., graph theory), to our personal struggles (e.g., with depression or anxiety), outside interests (e.g., mountain biking), and motivations (e.g., increasing access to STEM education).
To best fulfill our mission of mentoring women at all educational and professional levels, we wanted to bring together women across backgrounds and disciplines to share their questions, concerns, experiences, and wisdom with each other. We therefore invited scientists from UCSB and from industry in the surrounding community, and had representations from all career levels.
To provide some structure to the event, and to allow for deeper engagement than the typical ‘speed dating’ configuration would allow, over the course of an hour we had everyone rotate through different topic stations, ideally talking with a different group of women at every station. Topics of discussion included how to achieve work-life balance, how to build confidence in the workplace, and professional development strategies.
The feedback for our event was very positive, with most people asking us to continue it as a recurring series. We are now aiming to have quarterly mentoring events where we will discuss one topic in depth, rather than a range of topics, as we did at the first event.
We’ve created a ‘How-to’ document for this event to help anyone interested in hosting a similar event.
What do you foresee for the future of your pod and what will be your focus (i.e. outreach, activism, connecting with other groups, etc?)
We are lucky to be in a community that has a very health presence of groups dedicated to promoting female empowerment and supporting women in science. In crafting our mission statement, we decided that our niche was to create and foster a sense of community among our local female scientists as well as within the larger STEM community. We will cultivate that sense of community through our regular meetings and social meet-ups, and with our quarterly mentoring events.
In addition, we have a lot of ideas for events that we just need time to implement! Next month, for instance, one of our members is going to hold a ‘Why you should write a press release about your work’ crash course seminar (an idea born at the Speed Mentoring event). We are also working on finding funding to be able to invite outside speakers, for instance to talk about making feminism more inclusive. Regarding outreach and accessibility of science for the local community, we have members who are involved in STEM outreach and education in their individual fields, and we are looking for ways that our group can come together to reach out and contribute to the community. Suggestions are welcome!