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Posts tagged ‘history’

My Homeward Bound Journey: The Beginning by Cathy Sorbara.

A little over four months ago, was the annual general meeting CamAWiSE, my first event acting as Chair. I listened to a talk by Dr. Deborah Pardo, a population modeller from the British Antarctic Survey, who was part of Homeward Bound’s maiden voyage to Antarctica last year. I heard her talk with such passion and clarity about Homeward Bound’s mission and how it has changed her life that I knew immediately that I needed to be part of this story.

Homeward Bound, she said, is a groundbreaking leadership, strategic and science initiative, and outreach for women, set against the backdrop of Antarctica.

The initiative, turned global movement, aims to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet.

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Deborah Pardo

When it launched in 2016, Homeward Bound gathered the first 76 of a targeted 1,000 women from around the world, all with critical science backgrounds, to undertake a year-long state-of-the-art program to develop their leadership and strategic capabilities, using science to build conviction around the importance of their voices. The inaugural program culminated in the largest-ever female expedition to Antarctica, in December 2016, with a focus on the leadership of women and the state of the world.

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Where do I sign up? I asked her following her talk. Serendipitously, the applications for the 2018 voyage were due three days later.

I rushed home and cleared my schedule for the weekend. I started to scroll through the online application and with each question my inner critic was pleading for me to quit. The questions ranged from Why are you suitable for Homeward Bound? To Given your science background, how do you think your leadership could influence policy and decision making? I even had to create a 2-minute elevator pitch and upload it to YouTube for their assessment.

I searched through last years’ participant videos and felt completely out of my league. These women were true leaders, leading inspirational lives. They were professors, heads of research organizations and environmental conservationists.

I, on the other hand, was a biochemist by training, I did my Ph.D. in Medical Life Science in Munich Germany and following my graduate studies, I stepped away from research. I never considered myself a leader and found the label very intimating.

Then there was the biggest catch. One of the project’s objectives is to be 100% self-funded, so not ‘not-for-profit’ and not ‘for-profit’. All women must contribute $16 000 USD. This covers the cost of being on the ship for 21 nights, hotel accommodation, faculty meetings, administration and operational contributions. On top of this, I would still need to pay for flights to our departure point at Ushuaia, Argentina.

I scrolled seemingly hundreds of times through the application and last years’ participant list, slowly talking myself out of applying. Then I saw a paragraph at the very of the application in BOLD. It said, We know women tend to only apply to positions where we feel we qualify 100%. We are here to tell you: JUST APPLY. We want women from a variety of STEM backgrounds at a variety of stages in the leadership journey. Sincerely, The Homeward Bound Team.

 

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Photo by Deborah Pardo

 

Then I started thinking of my own situation.

I am in a unique position. I am a scientist, chair of CamAWiSE and COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association, a global training platform for STEM academics looking to transition into industry. I have the ability to lead, influence and contribute to the lives of thousands of women and hopefully instill upon them confidence and encouragement to achieve their goals. My colleagues are located across Europe, Australia, India, and America, to name but a few countries. Building relationships, managing time zones and learning remote communication tools to enhance my leadership and strategical capability is not only a bonus but an absolute necessity for me to be successful in my current role and make a difference in the lives of others. I bring with me the voice of early career scientist that I counsel daily and know first hand their struggles, fears and dreams that need be heard in order to create policies to shape the future of our planet.

 

In particular, self-doubt within female PhDs is incredibly strong and inhibiting. I joined Homeward Bound to prove to those graduates that we can all be leaders and that leadership comes in many forms and from many fields.

To me, leadership is about finding out who you are as a person and using your gifts, your own unique attributes, to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders do not create a vision on their own but bring together the best team of individuals that together can achieve greatness. When a great leader steps down or moves on, the team not only remains strong but can thrive due to the lasting impression of that leader and confidence she instilled upon.

Homeward Bound is definitely outside my comfort zone, which is why I am even more driven to do it.

Two weeks after submitting my application, I received the congratulatory email that I was selected out of the hundreds of women across the globe that had applied. We will be stronger together!

If you would like to support my journey, please see my crowd funding page here: https://igg.me/at/fb1KLsOodu8

 

 

Let’s Get Quizzical: A women in STEM Quiz night

Join us!
A fun and relaxed evening of networking for women in STEM. A superb opportunity to meet other women in academia, industry, and enterprise at different career stages.

For part of the evening, we will have a fun thematic quiz night. How much do you know about women in STEM? Are you ready to win our big prize or will you be the wooden spoon?

And of course, as every year we have a special summer treat: famous Lucy Cavendish’s mini scones and strawberries & cream.

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Lucy Cavendish College
Reception rooms
Tuesday 18th July
20:00-22:00

Lucy Cavendish College is a walking distance from the City Center
There is plenty of space for your bike and free parking for attendees.

Book here!

 

 

Winter networking 2016

Speed networking, stories of real-life professional women and mince pies. That could be a recap of the 2016 winter networking, but it was so much more.

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Mince pies

During the speed networking, the room was filled with energy as attendees changed partner every five minutes. This allowed everybody to make more contacts and to hone their networking skills.

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End of a five minutes segment.

After the networking, several members of the steering group talked about their professional careers. Although they all had different paths they all stressed the importance of doing what you enjoy and not what you are supposed to do

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Julia Bardos

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Anne Clarke

For all of them, CamAWiSE was very important in different stages of their career as a friendly and supportive group. Indeed, CamAWiSE is a good place to connect with professional women who share similar experiences, gain skills and increase your confidence.

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Penny Coggill

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Claire Lucas

We also had an impromptu speaker: Lucy Bennett, an engineering student who brought out the importance of having female role models for students like her.

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Lucy Bennett

Thank you very much to all the speakers for sharing their experiences with us.

Pandora’s Breeches: a book review and event announcement

pandora bookPandora’s Breeches: Women,Science and Power in the Enlightenment By Patricia Fara

This book examines the roles women played in science in the period of about 1600 till 1830 by a clever use of woman-man pairs. The pairs acting as bookends at the beginning and end of the book are authors (non- scientists, as it happens) with fictional characters: Francis Bacon with ‘Lady Philosophy’ and Mary Shelley with Frankenstein. The eight pairs giving rise to a chapter each in between are women corresponding with influential scholars, women who translate science either into other languages or for broader audiences and women who assist their men (husbands, brothers) in doing their research at home. Women are also discussed in their role as patrons of scholars but not to the extent that they get their own chapter. It is telling that Queen Christina of Sweden, who invited René Descartes to Stockholm (where he died), has to make way for his correspondent Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia to make up a pair.

I really liked the idea of re-examining historical evidence such as pictures and surviving letters and learning about women I hadn’t heard much about before (especially apt on Ada Lovelace Day). The book is great at debunking heroic versions of scientific history, which annoy me as I see science as such a collaborative effort at its core.

Society was markedly different in the 200 odd years described and more unapologetically patriarchal from what it is today. But I was wondering whether there is still something to learn from these women that is recognizable today? Maybe it is the difference in the women’s own attitude. Both Elisabetha Hevelius and Marie Paulze Lavoisier appear to have determined their own destinies, by choosing established scientists as spouses and carving out their own niches alongside them. In contrast Caroline Herschel “seemed determined to be miserable” and “colluded in her downtrodden state”. After all, our own actions and attitudes are all we have control over.

Patricia Fara will speak at the Cambridge AWiSE Festival of Ideas event asking “Is it a feminist position to encourage women to work and study in male dominated fields?” on 28 October 2013, 19.30, Lucy Cavendish College. Other speakers include Jenny Koenig, founding chair of Cambridge AWiSE and CUSU’s Lauren Steele who organised the campaign “I need feminism because” which went viral and proves that new generations still have an apatite for feminism! Come and join us to debate, inform and be informed. I am definitely looking forward to it!

It is Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace wasn’t just the first female computer programmer, she was the world’s first ever computer programmer full stop. Ada Lovelace day celebrates women in STEM, which is also what Cambridge AWiSE is all about! There is lots of activity on twitter on the fact it is Ada Lovelace day, I even noticed it ‘trending’.  Here are some of the links that caught my attention….

Plenty of posts with background on who Ada Lovelace was, but this one is my favourite.  To get to know her in her own words, New Scientist have managed to secure a rare interview with her…. (well, they mined her correspondence very cleverly)

Even the BBC is promoting the occasion! The BBC has devoted front page coverage on its website to these profiles of female scientists.

The Guardian also has a lower profile, but very thoughtful piece focusing on ‘ women who have excelled in their field but have often been denied both opportunity and recognition’.

The Wellcome Trust publishes a blog  by Professor Dame Kay Davies and Sir Mark Walport on the need for flexibility in research careers, which is right up my street.

Ed Yong, a (male, as it happens) science blogger I very much admire compiled an all-female list of top science writers. My favourite, Jenny Rohn appears to be missing. Yours?

Trawling through twitter in search of Ada made me find out about the Double X science blog for women, which although very American, I shall be frequenting from now on.

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