Pod of the Week - St Louis

Location: Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Number of women: ~15 dedicated core members, with another ~75 active on our private members' Facebook page and/or on our email distribution list

Frequency of meeting: every 4-6 weeks

Mission statement: To serve the St. Louis area by creating a scientific community that is open, inclusive, and accessible to all by empowering women in STEM fields in the greater St. Louis area through the following avenues: 1) mentorship and networking opportunities, 2) professional development opportunities, and 3) collaboration with local science advocacy groups, charitable entities, and women's organizations. Our goals are to support scientific endeavors, enhance the lives of women and minorities in the St. Louis area, and promote scientific literacy and understanding between scientists and non-scientists. Through these efforts we hope to expand the public's view of who we are as women scientists, what we do, and the issues for which we stand.

How did you come to this mission, why is it relevant to your city and state?

Women's March 2018

Women's March 2018

Early on, most of our members were women who were already established or well on their way to establishing themselves in careers in the STEM fields. Therefore, instead of focusing so much on recruiting young girls into STEM fields (and partly because several area organizations are already working in that arena), we wanted to develop resources to assist women in STEM fields in advancing in their careers. Nothing like this really exists in St. Louis or Missouri as a whole so we felt it was not duplicating services, but was definitely meeting a need that all of our members expressed as being important.

(pictures of various pod gatherings over the last year)

Can you tell us about the recent activities you've spearheaded? What brought this about?

We are not even a year old as a Pod (our first meeting was 4/12/17) so we've spent the majority of these first months building our members' base. We have done so through a variety of efforts. Primarily, we established a public Facebook page that posts articles and other items of interest related to women and/or the sciences. This has allowed our contact base to expand rapidly (we have almost 300 people following that page). Having that page to which we can post our events, including members' meetings and informal happy hours, has increased our membership base.

Rachael as scavenger hunt clue at Beer with a Women Scientist event

Rachael as scavenger hunt clue at Beer with a Women Scientist event

Our most successful endeavor to date was our "Beer With a Woman Scientist" event which was held Wednesday, January 31st, 2018. The event included a honey tasting table with information about how various plant pollen affects the taste along with discussion about bee/hive health, a beer tasting demo from a local woman's craft beer collective, and a kids' table featuring making your own kaleidoscopes (with information about the science of reflection) and DNA extraction activities. We also did a Scavenger Hunt where attendees were given a list that said: "Find the woman scientist who ______" (e.g. is an avid hiker, is a professional belly dancer, etc). They then went around and spoke with members to find the correct woman scientist. In the process they learned about our path to our specific career/area of study and also got a more well-rounded view about who we are as people. Completed lists were turned in for a raffle ticket/chance to win one of several donated prizes.

We also had two formal presentations: one by a local on-air meteorologist, and one by a chemist and member of the woman's craft beer collective. Our goal behind this event was two-fold: 1) we wanted to expand our membership base, and 2) we wanted to expose the public to a diverse group of women working/studying in a diverse set of STEM fields. Response to the event was overwhelmingly positive. There were hundreds of attendees, a sharp increase in our Facebook follows and requests to join our members-only page. AND we have a list of over 200 women who indicated they want to join our pod and another of 60 who want to be identified as "allies" of our pod (these are either men or non-scientists).

Are there any specific 2018 initiatives you'd like to tell us about?

We have another social/charitable event coming up on 2/16 at a local brewery (owned and run in part by a woman): a menstruation and undergarment product drive to benefit a local charity, "Support the Girls". We are also planning to work on formalizing some mentorship opportunities for our members as well as develop a speakers' series.

What do you see as the future of St. Louis Pod?

With a rapid expansion in our membership and social media reach, we'd like to identify sub-groups of women passionate about working on particular areas that fall under our group's mission statement. We would like to have semi-independent "sub-committees" working on specific tasks and bringing their plans and progress back to our group as a whole. 

Pictures: Pod Leaders Monica Muir (left), Rachel Bradshaw (center), Monica and Rachel at the women's march (right)

Pod Leaders:

Monica Muir, D.O., Internal Medicine/Pediatrics Physician, Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellow at Washington University St. Louis

Rachael Bradshaw, M.S., Certified Genetic Counselor, Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University