Fifth Meeting, Bonito 2012
by Beth A. Kaplin
ATBC’s Gender Committee hosted a Women’s mentoring workshop this year at the 2012 meetings in Bonito, Brazil. The workshop, which lasted 1 ½ hours, was chaired by Seline Meijer and Beth A. Kaplin. The theme for this year’s workshop, which was developed by Krista McGuire and Seline Meijer, focused on facilitating interaction among junior and senior female scientists. The workshop format allowed for lively discussions among groups of female tropical scientists. Following a brief introduction to ATBC’s gender committee and the objectives of the workshop, six women considered more ‘senior’ female scientists (Dr. Kevina Vulinec, Dr. Tuyeni Mwampamba, Dr. Pia Parolin, Dr. Susan Lawrance, Dr. Ellen Andresen, Dr. Liz Losos and Dr. Beth Kaplin) took a seat in one of six circles of empty chairs. The young women who had come to participate in the workshop, about 40 in total, each took a seat within a circle, so that each grouping included one more senior female scientist and 3-6 early career women scientists. With this spin off of the speed-dating format, the groups of scientists discussed for about 15 minutes before Seline Meijer, our time keeper, signaled the early career women to join a different circle, while the more senior women stayed put. In this way different groups of women could discuss with each other during the course of the workshop.
The main themes that emerged were:
The importance of having a supportive partner who will facilitate your work and support your choices.
The importance of being able to choose a career path and not feel compelled to go down a certain path due to cultural pressures or guilt feelings. The relevance of finding a model individual to help support you was discussed in this context.
The significance of picking supportive people to work with, especially advisors –as a female graduate student possibly interested in having a family, it’s not necessarily going to benefit you to pick a big name to work with; you may also want to consider selecting someone who will understand you and the issues you face as a female scientist.
The relevance of not planning too far in advance – as a female juggling many roles in life, it may not be possible to plan everything out exactly, and there may never be a ‘right time’ for something like having a baby so avoid overthinking – there is likely no single right choice.
The inaherent balance between stress in the academic work place and the fact that academia is also a good place to make life choices; you often get to set your own hours and not punch a time clock.
The importance of being flexible with your research to be more successful; with kids you may find yourself with less time, so allow yourself to drop some expectations and try to be strategic: at the doctor’s office or while waiting for an appointment, work on something, for example.
Collaborating can help you advance – share data, rather than being protective.
We anticipate next year in Costa Rica to come together again for another round of discussion.
Women’s mentoring Workshop
- Krista McGuire, Barnard College, Columbia University; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seline Meijer, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Malawi and University College Dublin; email: email@example.com
- Beth Kaplin, Antioch University; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Synopsis: Young female scientists starting off their careers in tropical biology and conservation come across various challenges including balancing careers and family with field work. The ATBC meeting offers a great opportunity for younger researchers and students to interact with more senior scientists to gain insight from their experiences. However, it can be quite daunting to approach a senior scientist in the short breaks between sessions, and the opportunities to talk at length about such challenges are often limited. In previous years, the gender committee of the ATBC has organized panels and discussion sessions around topics related to challenges that women in tropical biology face. For the 2012 ATBC meeting in Bonito, we propose to continue this tradition by organizing a women’s mentoring workshop that facilitates interaction among junior and senior female scientists. The structure of this workshop will center around a speed-mentoring session, in which participants will rotate and offer advice to the junior person they are paired with. After 5 minutes, we will ring a bell and people will move to the next partner.