Voices of Women in Science

Women in Science (WiS) is a newly founded network in Sweden for women working in a scientific field or aspiring to do so. For this year’s International Women’s Day, Medicor sat down with three representatives from WiS – Emily Eriksson, Andrea Coulthard and Ida Viken – to find out more about WiS and why the voices of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) deserve a platform.

by Isabelle Wemar

What was the inspiration for founding WiS?

“Why aren’t there more women in STEM?” is a common question. Our impression is that there is a lack of communication between the women that actually are in STEM and the rest of society. We founded WiS with the purpose of trying to fill that gap in communication. We want to connect female researchers with women and girls with an interest in science, hopefully inspiring them to pursue that interest more seriously.

There are many other networks for researchers and people interested in science, like the Swedish Federation of Young Scientists, but thus far there hasn’t been a network for women only in Sweden. We are based at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, but we are an independent organization and hope to expand across the rest of Sweden.

The #metoo-movement, in which women shared their experiences of sexual harassment on social media, showed that just beginning the discussion between us women is an important step towards progress and change.

At the present, merely 27% of all professors are female. In 2030, 50% of all professors at higher academic institutions should be female, according to a target set by the Swedish government. However, when we have looked into it, we have found no instructions on how to achieve that. We think just directing attention to this problem and discussing science with only women is a step in the right direction.

We believe that the only acceptable reason to why few women are professors, should be because they simply don’t want to. Through WiS we want to find out if that is actually the case.

We want to connect female researchers with women and girls with an interest in science.

Is that why WiS focuses on women and girls only?

First of all, we want to point out that WiS is non-political. WiS is mainly a social network and discussion forum, meant to inspire and draw attention to women in STEM.

There are plenty of studies that show that women tend to undersell themselves; they make less demands career-wise and don’t know how to present themselves fairly in job interviews. We want to get to the bottom of of these structures by creating a safe space for women to grow and achieve their goals both in their professional and private lives.

Merely 27% of all professors [in Sweden] are female.

How is WiS planning to achieve these goals?

Since our goal is to be a non-hierarchical network, we have asked for input from our target group, women and girls interested in science. Many of them want to discover their own potential, find out how to best utilize it and reach their goals – whether it be in school, education, career or private life. Consequently our first project is a workshop in interactive entrepreneurship, which is a collaboration with the European Institute of Health and the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship. The aim is to empower women’s entrepreneurship in health and innovation. It will take place on March 21st at Karolinska Institutet.  

Later this spring, we will have inspirational seminars and a movie night.

A big project that we’re soon launching is a mentorship program, which will allow one-on-one discussion and development. We hope to aim this to younger girls, who tend to lose their interest in STEM when they’re around 15 years old, perhaps due to a lack of female role models.

Just beginning the discussion between us women is an important step towards progress.

Who can join and how?

Everyone and anyone who identifies as a woman and is interested in science – regardless of age or profession. There are no requirements on knowledge or experience or level of commitment. You can choose to get involved with WiS whenever you think you have something to gain or contribute.

To conclude, do you have an inspirational quote suitable for the International Women’s Day?

“The lack of focus on women’s history has always been a greater problem than the lack of sources.” Andrea found this when she visited an exhibition about women at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm last year. We think it perfectly sums up the goal of WiS. It stresses how there is no lack of women, but really just a lack of visibility. A lack of visibility which WiS wants to make up for.

Want to connect with WiS? You can find them on Facebook and LinkedIn under the page name “Women in Science”. Their website “WomenInScience.se” is under construction and will soon be available, but you can also send an e-mail to “[email protected]” to let them know that you are interested in becoming a member and getting their newsletters. You can register for the workshop in interactive entrepreneurship here.

Published on web only
Photographer: Otto Huanuco Rios
Proofreader: Lauren Lyne
Editor: Joanne Bakker

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