Friday, February 27, 2009

Panel discussion on women in science - ideas?

I've got a great new dean who's an active supporter of women in science (and a woman scientist, as well). When the call went out for ideas for Women's History Month, she suggested that the scientists do something. So... we're bringing in Dr. Marjorie Chan of the University of Utah, who has a women-in-geology talk she's given as an Association for Women Geoscientists lecturer, and besides her talk, we're going to do a panel discussion on issues facing women scientists. I'm organizing it, and I think I may be moderating it.

I've never organized any sort of panel discussion before, and I've never been in the audience for anything like this. So I'm looking for ideas.

We're a small public liberal arts college, so the audience will be a mixture of faculty members and undergraduates - no grad students, no post-docs. The panel members so far include Margie and the senior woman in the biology department - we're working on finding someone else. The other someones won't be from physics/engineering or chemistry - each department has one woman professor, but they're both assistant profs, and we don't want to put them on the spot.

So what should we talk about?

Margie knows the current statistics for women in the geosciences, and the biologist knows the history of her department, so at the very least, we can talk about the history in those two fields. Some of my other ideas are:

- Debunking persistent myths about women's abilities as scientists. (Maybe more important for students in intro classes, though.)

- Discussing Virginia Valian's ideas about the ways that tiny differences in perception can lead to big differences in women's success.

- Discussing the problem of balance.

- Doing some kind of exercise like Sciencewoman recently did, thinking about our strengths and how to promote them.

- Discussing the success of our biology program in hiring and educating women.

- Brainstorming things that we can do to help women in science (both students and faculty).

Anyone led a panel like this, or been in the audience for one? Any advice for what works and what doesn't?


Chuck said...

Can you bring in someone from central Colorado?

Kim said...

I don't think we could pay travel money for more than one person. (Salt Lake City and Denver are about the same distance from here.) So I think everyone else needs to be local. (I'm going to ask some of the local women petroleum geologists to join us.) Do you know someone nearer than Denver?

Silver Fox said...

When will this be? I've never been involved in anything quite like this, except for way long-ago AWG meetings. I think you've got a good start on ideas, and Dr. Marjorie Chan sounds like she will be good.

Do you think any of the discussion would be useful to people in industry in general? Probably you aren't opening this to the public in any way.

Sorry, I don't know anyone in the general area. And I'm just trying to think off the top of my head.

ScienceWoman said...

Sounds like you've got a great start. I think I might add something about mentoring and networking - maybe an introduction to existing resources (mentornet, etc.) and some talk from your panelists about the importance of mentoring and networking (esp. specific ways that it has helped/hurt them). Effective mentoring and networking are some of the things that women can easily miss out on by virtue of not being in "the old boys club."